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First Nantucket-bound ferry departs Hyannis after Hurricane Sandy curtailed service

HYANNIS -- After the last trucks carrying supplies for the island of Nantucket rolled aboard, the M/V Eagle ferry shoved off about 9:40 a.m. this morning, 25 minutes behind schedule but hours before most people had been led to believe it would depart.

Seas roiled by Hurricane Sandy had forced the Steamship Authority to cancel all boats to the islands starting Sunday afternoon, well in advance of the storms. The authority resumed service for Martha’s Vineyard at 8:15 a.m. today from Woods Hole, but the longer trip between Nantucket and Hyannis remained an open question.

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The high-speed catamaran was canceled, and the traditional auto ferry appeared to be suspended as well -- until the Coast Guard gave the all-clear for the M/V Eagle to take off. And so it did, although it was almost totally free of passengers, because they had been led to believe that service would not resume until the 2:45 p.m. boat.

Islanders stranded at nearby hotels were eager to return.

“I’m anxious to get home and see what happened to our house,” said Jacquie Bixby, who has called the island home since 1971. She had seen pictures of flooding online and was especially worried about the shops along the wharf.

“The cleanup is going to be horrific,” she said. Bixby, who had been stuck on the mainland while returning from a family wedding in Connecticut with her husband and daughter, appeared frustrated to have missed the morning ferry but was understanding about the cancellations.

“With the weather the way it was, I think they did the right thing. I wouldn’t want to be on it” in the storm, said Bixby, who spent the night at the Bayside Resort Hotel in West Yarmouth, a mile and a half from the ferry dock. “When you live on an island, you know Plan B is essential.”

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Bixby, a US Airways flight attendant, had the week off from work. Her daughter, Bevin, is a travel agent who was supposed to work today on Nantucket.

“My poor boss. She’s really busy. I’m feeling really guilty,” said Bevin Bixby, who was slightly disappointed that the boat was resuming before flights to the island. Cape Air and Nantucket Airlines have both canceled all flights today. Bevin Bixby had hoped to fly home ahead of her parents and their car. “I’m that Nantucket girl who doesn’t eat seafood and has no sea legs,” she said while fixing a waffle at the continental breakfast station.

Back in Hyannis, at the terminal, a ticket agent said that the high-speed catamaran -- which makes four one-hour trips each way on a typical day -- might remain canceled, but the sturdier Eagle, which takes 2 ¼ hours to make the trip, had been cleared.

The catamaran “rides a little differently,” said Gail, the ticket seller who declined to give her last name, as she looked out at an empty terminal. “The big boat can ride in higher seas.”

Eric Moskowitz can be reached at emoskowitz@globe.com.

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