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Cranberry Isles Considering Future of Ferry Service

CRANBERRY ISLES, Maine _ Residents of the Cranberry Isles face some uncertainty over their future ferry service, as the area's longtime mailboat operator looks to get out of the business. But at a special meeting this week, the town took steps to start replacing the service.

"The ferry boat is our lifeline," says Denise McCormick, Cranberry Isles municipal clerk. "I mean it's the only way that we can get to and from the islands to the mainland for grocery shopping, doctors appointments, some people work on the mainland, we have high schoolers that go to MDI high school from here."

She says the Beal & Bunker Mailboat and Ferry has run daily trips between the Cranberry Isles and Northeast Harbor year round since the 1950s. She says disruption in service for any period of time would be more than an inconvenience.

"We couldn't live out here if we didn't have ferry service," she says.

At a special meeting this week, the town voted to allow the municipality to enter into negotiations to replace the ferry service -- including the possibility of purchasing the business from Beal & Bunker. But the town declined to spend an extra $40,000 for consulting services to look deeper into the matter of municipal transport between the islands and the mainland.

McCormick says there's no fixed timeline on transferring to a new service. She says the current operator is working with the town to make sure there are no gaps in service.

Any purchase would need to be worked into the town's new budget, and approved at its March town meeting.