Selectmen Approve Transfer Of Freedom Ferry Permits

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Roads, highways and transportation

The Freedom Ferry steams out of Saquatucket Harbor on its way to Nantucket.  FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — Selectmen on Monday night paved the way for the sale of the Freedom Ferry when they voted to allow the transfer of the ferry slip at Saquatucket Harbor to the proposed new owner, Jack Sheeran of Chatham. Sheeran also received the approval to transfer the vessel's Class F permit.

An opinion from town counsel Matthew G. Feher of KP Law stated the Harwich Harbor Management Plan makes “clear that any transfer of ownership of the ferry constitutes a sale, and that ferry slip does not automatically transfer in such a situation.”

Feher pointed out the new entity purchasing the ferry may apply to the board of selectmen for the slip. The plan recognizes the importance of the ferry service to the town, its businesses and the general public. The plan further points out that parking rights relative to the re-assigned ferry slip are not grandfathered, and requires that the assignee of the ferry slip satisfy off-site parking requirements at an advertised public hearing.

The F-permit authorizes the ferry to take on fuel from an authorized tank wagon at the town-owned facility. F-permits can only be issued to vessels licensed as a commercial operation to transport people across a body of water on a regular schedule.

Sheeran stated he has an agreement with Alan McMullen of Freedom Cruise Line, Inc. to purchase the ferry and the real estate McMullen owns across Route 28 from the harbor, but one of the contingencies of the sale is a successful transfer of the slip and the F-permit.

Sheeran on Monday night said he has been talking with McMullen for over a year about the purchase. Sheeran said he has been living on the Cape for four years, though he had a vacation home in Harwich for years and worked at Thompson's Clam Bar in 1990. Sheeran has worked as a co-captain on vessels at Chatham Bars Inn.

This is the 25th year the Freedom has carried passengers from Harwich to Nantucket and back. Sheeran told selectmen he has secured the same slip in Nantucket. He said the staff will remain the same and the schedule, set by the Massachusetts Steamship Authority, will also be the same.

“The future of Saquatucket Harbor is very bright,” Sheeran told selectmen.

Harbormaster John Rendon said he and Sheeran have met on several occasions and he came before the waterways committee and received their support for the transfer. Rendon said he told Sheeran of the plan to bring the ticket booths for party boats together on the water side of Route 28 and the new owner was supportive.

“I recommended he maintain off-site parking,” said Rendon, who also recommended selectmen approve the transfers.

Finance committee member Jon Chorey said he has worked as a co-captain at CBI with Sheeran and spoke positively of him. Chorey said Sheeran would be a great asset to the town and he also recommended the transfers be approved.

Selectman Donald Howell said the Freedom Ferry is a boon for the town, tell Sheeran “don't screw it up.”

Sheeran said on Tuesday morning the sale would be taking place that day. He said McMullen would be staying on as a consultant. Sheeran said he is a licensed captain, but he anticipates spending most of his time in the office.