The Nantucket ferry service known as the Hyline runs a fast boat called The Grey Lady. I must begin by admitting that I love The Grey Lady. In my opinion, it provides the nicest possible ride across the sound from Hyannis to Nantucket. The fast ferry only takes one hour to cross, and provides beautiful vistas and comfortable seating, not to mention a very pleasant and friendly crew. Well, except for that crabby old guy who stands next to the ticket taker when you board. His main responsibility seems to be to ensure that you don’t get on with say, a huge cooler of beer. Or even just a few measly bottles of wine in an LL Bean canvas tote that are obviously meant to be a hostess gift, but somehow seem like something you’re going to start chugging fast even before the boat blows it’s four quick whistles. Perhaps this is somehow vaguely related to “National Security,” but still. Is it really necessary to demand I check my bag because of the wine? Really? He must still be reeling from some wicked bad Figawi experience.
In any case, even the best of ferry operations have their downsides, and the first one that comes to mind for me in terms of the Hyline is the location of its office in Hyannis. The office is not nearly large enough to accommodate a hostile, summer mob, and usually when boats are arriving and departing it is nothing short of a madhouse. I can feel a tightening in my chest nearly every time we pull into their parking lot because I know what lies ahead: a zoo-like rush through the throngs and up to the ticket counter where I pray they have held my reservation and will seamlessly provide me with boarding passes so we can go stand outside on line. People line up for this boat early, and if it happens to be raining there is no cover, so get ready to get wet.
On the plus side, though, a little known secret here is that if you are traveling with a child in a stroller or perhaps an adult in a wheelchair accompanied by an oxygen tank, you are made in the shade and will be allowed to “pre-board.” Obviously, this works well if you’re running late and didn’t get a good spot in line. This is an ideal way to get first pick of the prime seating. Once you have experienced the pre-board, it’s difficult to give it up. I have known families who based their decision to have another baby solely on the perk of pre-boarding with a stroller. I have also been witness to a large, pre-pubescent child being semi-bullied by his mother and forced into a stroller moments before it was time for the “pre-boarders” to load up. Clearly, she was holding onto her pre-board status by the skin of her teeth.
Stay tuned for details on seating and even more importantly, eating on this Nantucket ferry.