The ice was so thick and the gusts so powerful that a commuter ferry out of Hingham Friday morning required a tug just to get underway.
With 4-foot-thick ice threatening to bust the hull and bend the propellers, Captain Jay Spence called for help.
Within minutes, the 8:20 a.m. ferry got a tow from another Boston Harbor Cruises boat, the Warren Jr., which led the way for about half a mile by breaking the ice in the ferry’s path before setting the boat loose to proceed on its own to Boston.
“They pulled our bow into the wind, so we could make it out of the channel,” Spence said. “Once we were in clear water, they let us go.”
The ferry was carrying 103 passengers, said Alison Nolan, principal and general manager of Boston Harbor Cruises, which runs the commuter ferry service for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. No one was injured and there was no damage to the ferry, called the Massachusetts.
Without the tow, the ice “probably would’ve broken propellers, that are $3,000 each, and immobilized us,” Spence said.
The normally half-hour cruise to Boston took about two hours.
“It was a slow process,” Spence said. “There were some slushy points.”
The Massachusetts, the second ferry on the morning schedule, eventually docked in Boston shortly after 10 a.m.
Daniel Sullivan, 39, of Hingham, said passengers heard a “pretty solid bang” when the boat came to a halt so it could be tied up to the tug.
“You could definitely hear the thuds on the hull and a very loud, scraping noise,” said Sullivan, adding he could see red paint from the boat’s hull on the ice.
Sharon Britton, 64, of North Weymouth, takes the ferry nearly every day to Boston. She did not regret her decision to take the trip Friday, even after the ferry service had been canceled all week because of the massive ice floes.
“I really wasn’t nervous with the ice at all,” she said. “But when we got to the actual open water, I got more scared.”
Another veteran of the ferry, Danielle Desilets, 38, also of North Weymouth, said she trusted the crew.
“I think they were trying to be careful,” she said.
David McDonough, 38, of Scituate, appreciated the crew for keeping passengers informed about what was happening. “Could’ve been worse,” he said.
Ferry service from Hingham had been canceled since Monday due to ice, but limited service resumed Friday morning. The 8 a.m. ferry from Hingham completed its trip to Boston before the Massachusetts set off.
The remaining trips for the day were canceled.
Ferry service between Rowes Wharf and Hull, however, remained in service, and officials said commuters would be provided with bus service to Hingham.
Nolan said Boston Harbor Cruises will continue its ice-breaking operations through the weekend, with the hope of resuming Hingham ferry service Monday.
The Massachusetts is owned by Massachusetts Bay Lines, which is contracted by Boston Harbor Cruises to provide the commuter ferry service.
After hopping off the red, white, and blue boat into the frigid air on Rowes Wharf Friday morning, James Canney, of Marshfield, was not complaining.
After all, he said, he could have been stuck on a train that wasn’t moving.
“I was so excited to be on the boat,” said Canney, 40.
Now he was facing the possibility that he might have no easy way to get home.
“I really don’t have a choice. It’s train or boat or drive,” he said. “None of them are working.”