The ferry is teeming with weekend travelers, cyclists, and a few lucky dogs, anxious to leave behind Boston’s steamy streets for the cool breezes of Provincetown.
As the Salacia casts off from Long Wharf, horn blaring and engines rumbling, there comes a welcome voice over the intercom, that calming brogue of summer. Donal O’Sullivan is in his 14th year as concierge on the idyllic 90-minute boat ride to the tip of Cape Cod, avoiding the hassle of summer traffic.
“It never gets old,” O’Sullivan says. “I start every season with a tremendous spirit of anticipation.”
At 66, he’s a 31-year employee of Boston Harbor Cruises, a fourth-generation business run by the Nolan family. The company’s 47 vessels carry some 2 million passengers yearly — on whale watches, Boston Harbor Islands cruises, and water commutes from Hingham, Hull, and Charlestown. The company employs 250 people year-round and will have 575 this summer.
Hingham commuters know O’Sullivan as a deckhand on daily trips to work in the offseason. But come summertime, it’s all about Provincetown and the newly renovated catamaran that carries passengers there three times daily.
You’ll see O’Sullivan in khaki shorts and a polo shirt, coiling ropes or tying down bikes. But he has the singular role of ambassador to P-town, offering tips on how to see the dunes, visit the art galleries, or find a place to stay.
“I get a kick out of helping people arrive in a much better state of readiness than if I wasn’t here,” O’Sullivan says.
A Dublin native, O’Sullivan was a young man seeking work in 1984 when he got lost hunting for Quincy Market. The next day, he saw the boats on the harbor and tried his luck. He’s been there ever since.
O’Sullivan seems to enjoy even the busiest summer excursions: 600 passengers, loads of luggage, and a line for the bar. He recalls fondly a day when women from the Boston Ballet crowded in with a boatload of bearded gay guys headed for Bear Week.
“Ballerinas and bears,” O’Sullivan says. “Only in Provincetown.”