By ANTHONY aRUSSO
NORTH KINGSTOWN - Many spectators and local leaders gathered at the Rhode Island Fast Ferry dock in Quonset for the Christening and maiden voyage of a brand-new vessel that will be used to carry passengers from Quonset to Martha’s Vineyard.
Rhode Island Fast Ferry President Charles A. Donadio Jr. said that the ship, which he named the Ava Pearl after his eldest daughter, is one of the most technologically advanced of it’s kind in the entire country.
“We are excited to be on the cutting edge of the fast ferry technology, we will be celebrating our tenth season and all our passengers will truly be benefitting from our success,” said Donadio. “This boat has all the latest and greatest.”
President of the South County Tourism Council Myrna George, members of the North Kingstown Town Council, and representatives from Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s staff were all on hand to congratuate Donadio and to see the Ava Pearl off on it’s first ever trip across the bay.
The ship was built in Somerset, Mass., but designed in Australia, the world leader in high speed ferry technology.
According to Donadio, the main difference between the new ship and the one it will be replacing, the Millennium catamaran, is their purpose.
The Ava Pearl is not only built to cruise in the ocean, it is built for this specific route, while the Millennium was originally used as a commuter boat to Boston Harbor.
The Millennium was built in 1999 and is very capable of traveling on the ocean, but Donadio said the the Ava Pearl will make the trip to Martha’s Vineyard 60 percent smoother.
The Ava Pearl is equipped with an “S” bow shape, while the millennium had a traditional straight bow. The new vessel will also be a lot lighter and include various technologies that will make the ride more comfortable.
While the Millennium held about 400 passengers, the Ava Pearl will only seat 150, which will make the ride more comfortable for passengers.
The Millennium is not retiring once the Ava Pearl is on the waters, it will simply have a new role.
The boat will be put to use in daily sightseeing tours, which will expand the Rhode Island Lighthouse Cruises and Sunset Cruises on Narragansett Bay.
These cruises were formerly only available three days per week and almost always sold out, but Donadio said that the cruises will now be available seven days per week, thanks to the Millennium.
Donadio is very excited that the new vessel will allow for him to build the sightseeing side of his business.
Where he once offered approximately 80 cruises per season, there will now be over 350.