After delays for testing on high seas, the QE IV steamed out of Gallows Bay Tuesday and has been on schedule since then, making the crossing between St. Croix and St. Thomas islands in just over two hours, according to the boat’s captain.
At the end of the second day of service, only one passenger out of 65 had been seasick, said Capt. Mike Harper, who has made the crossing more than 100 times.
“It was a little rough yesterday but cleared up today. It was beautiful,” said Harper, head of operations.
Launched in May, the100-foot vessel was designed by internationally recognized economist and St. Croix businessman Warren Mosler to eliminate the bumpy ride caused by sea swells. The long, narrow boat looks like a catamaran but sits on four hulls. The two short hulls and two longer hulls at the rear of the boat “fool the sea” into thinking it is a longer vessel than it is, creating a smoother ride, according to the boat’s builder, Gold Coast Yachts president Richard Difede.
From May until July and then through the New Year and into March 2017, the QE IV has been challenged through a long list of U.S. Coast Guard requirements. Some of the delays were caused by the unusually calm seas experienced this winter, Difede said. The vessel needed to pass the final test and perform in six-foot seas with 20-knot winds.
Finally, in the last two weeks, the ferry was deemed sea worthy.
The QE IV seats 56 passengers but that may eventually be increased to 70. The unusual looking vessel, constructed of carbon fiber, weighs only 31,000 pounds and runs on two 380 horsepower Cummings engines.
The boat runs at about 24 knots and, because it is lightweight, consumes around 20 gallons of fuel an hour – one-tenth the amount of fuel used by other boats its size,. The low fuel consumption will hold down the cost to run the ferry, Mosler said, and therefore keep down the ticket price.
The one-way sail costs $50. The boat leaves St. Croix at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. The turnaround is 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from St. Thomas.
Mosler said in December he has plans to build another ferry if the passenger demand is strong enough.