Travel

A boatload of gems on the Chappy ferry Facebook fan page

Social media — especially Facebook — is often such a navel-gazing, self-indulgent practice that when something different shows up, it can catch you by surprise. One such delightful example is the Chappy ferry Facebook fan page.

From April 18, 2015

On March 7, the Chappy ferry ON TIME II found itself surrounded and pinned to the Edgartown slip by a field of foot-thick ice in the harbor entrance. The ON TIME III, bearing a company excavator, clawed its way from Chappy to town to free her sister ferry. The trip, which normally takes one minute, lasted two hours as the ferry and machine dug a pathway across. Today, April 18, this is how things looked on a sparkling Edgartown Harbor. The breeze from the southwest was cool, because after all it had blown hundreds of miles over cold Atlantic waters. But the sun was warm on the face, the back, the hands. The water sparkled brightly. And what memories we have of the inch-by-inch fight to cross the harbor entrance through ice — which, after all, was waged only 43 DAYS AGO — have lost their sting entirely

For anyone who knows Martha’s Vineyard well, or has heard some of the more famous (or infamous) stories about the ferry (Ted Kennedy and “Jaws” immediately come to mind), then the tiny ferry that goes just 527 feet back and forth carrying passengers and only up to three cars between the main island and Chappaquiddick, may seem like nothing special.

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But Tom Dunlop, 54, has had a lifelong fascination with the ferry, dating as far back as he can remember. Originally a summer visitor, he’s now a permanent resident, and in 2012, he published an excellent and comprehensive book about the ferry’s colorful history, which dates to the 1800s. The fan page was originally a marketing tool. But his book came out more than three years ago. He’s since moved on to other projects and there’s no real reason to keep the page up. But Dunlop can’t let it go.

“I’ll tell its story as long as I can tell a story,” he said. “I would be doing this even without the book.”

From March 9, 2015

The sun felt more than mild — it edged into the realm of warmth if you sheltered yourself from the cold oceanic westerly breeze along the waterfront. The ice that scalloped the harbor from the entrance . . . all the way around to the Narrows on Saturday morning had dematerialized most everywhere, uncovering open water of penetrating blue.

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“I remember my father carrying me down to the dock when I was 4 and I saw this little matchbox of a ferry. It imprinted on me.” Dunlop recalls. “A lifetime of going there every day to check on it led to the book.”

Dunlop is not paid by the ferry owners to run the page, though he has their blessing. A few island photographers and other ferry aficionados contribute photos, videos, and news on occasion. Dunlop estimates he walks to the ferry at least once a day.

“It’s the heart and the soul of the harbor. And of my life geographically,” he said.

From May 11, 2014

As we close in on 2,500 official friends of the Chappy ferry, we thought you might like to know where you all hail from around the globe. Here’s the rundown (to date): United States (2,369), United Kingdom (27), Italy and Germany (5 each), Bulgaria and Belgium (4 each), Colombia, Albania, Philippines, Australia, Brazil (3 each), Turkey, Russia, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Switzerland, Greece, Denmark, Ireland (2 each), and one each from Saint Kitts, Spain, Qatar, Malaysia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Morocco, Bangladesh, Argentina, Ecuador, Thailand, Lithuania, New Zealand, Taiwan, Portugal, United Arab Emirates, the Bahamas, France, and Israel.

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Since that post, the number has jumped to almost 4,000 fans, and people comment and ask questions all the time. Fans share anecdotes of when they were children, they talk about when they will arrive this year, they post pictures of their cars crossing on the ferry — there are even followers who have never stepped foot on the islands, but hope to one day. They travel vicariously through the page.

Kim Foley MacKinnon can be reached at kimfoleymackinnon@ gmail.com.
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