Maine Trails, April - May '12
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Capt. Thompson christened

A new $9.4 million, 154-foot ferry serving Vinalhaven has begun regular runs between Rockland and the island. It was christened at the Maine State Ferry Service terminal in Rockland on April 20.

U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), who lives on the island of North Haven called ferries “a lifeline” and “a necessity.”
 
Bruce Van Note, deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, agreed. At the same time he pointed out the road to launching the new ferry had been a long one. Planning and work to secure funds for the new Vinalhaven ferry, the Captain E. Frank Thompson, started in the late 1990s. Half the new ferry money was federal stimulus money approved by Congress and President Obama three years ago, said Pingree.
 
This was the first time since 1993, when the Captain Neal Burgess was christened, that the state has replaced a ferry in its service. The Burgess serves North Haven.
 
Also speaking at the ceremony was former Maine State Senator and chair of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, Dennis Damon, a member of the state ferry advisory board. “I first posed the question back in 1993 as to whether we should look at trying to build a new ferry,” said Damon. “It is 2012 and we have delivery. Given the age of our overall ferry fleet, and the fact that it isn’t getting any younger, perhaps we should start the conversation now about building another new ferry.”
 
Damon suggested planning begin now for a new Penobscot Bay ferry, given it took 15 years after the first legislative vote on the Captain E. Frank Thompson to reach the christening stage.
 
“While in the legislature, I had the great honor of chairing the Joint Standing committee on Transportation. And I had to remind members of the committee, on occasion, that we were the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation; we were not the Joint Standing Committee on Roads and Bridges . . . The new addition to our transportation infrastructure, the Captain E. Frank Thompson, is but the latest example of Maine’s varied transportation needs, I have long felt it is our responsibility to provide a means for all Maine citizens to get from their town to the rest of the towns in the state. Whether it means going simply from Bangor to Brewer, or in this case, Vinalhaven to Rockland, our responsibility remains the same.
 
More than 100 people attended the christening. The bottle used in the christening sported a handcrafted red, white and blue covering provided by former longtime Maine State Ferry Service Manager Captain Richard Spear of Rockland. Than Hopkins performed the christening, breaking the traditional red-white-and-blue covered champagne over the new ferry’s bow. She is the daughter of the new ferry’s namesake, Frank Thompson, a long time ferry captain who had served for 22 years with the ferry service. Thompson retired in 1990 and died in 2003. Thompson’s grandson Kevin Hopkins served as ceremonial captain for the inaugural voyage held after the christening. Mitchell Hopkins, Thompson’s great-grandson, played in the community band that played at the ceremony.
 
The 494-ton ship replaces the Governor Curtis and was constructed at C & G Boatworks in Mobile, Alabama. The ferry took two years and three months to complete. The Alabama shipyard was the low bidder for the project, according to James MacLeod, manager of the ferry service.
 
The Captain E. Frank Thompson can carry up to 22 motor vehicles and 250 passengers. The Curtis and the Captain Charles Philbrook, that also provided service to the island, both carried 17 vehicles and about the same amount of people. The newly-christened ship had been outfitted with supplies and inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard. Drills with the crew also were required before final Coast Guard approval.
 

The Thompson can reach about 12 knots (about 13 miles per hour), slightly faster than the Curtis or Philbrook, holds 6,000 gallons of low-sulfur diesel fuel and is more fuel-efficient than the older ferries in the fleet, according to MacLeod. Last year, the ferries carried about 150,000 passengers between Vinalhaven and the mainland.

 

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