About this project
Never before has the owner of a year-round, all-weather American ferryboat service tried to run a ferry all day, every day, on electric power alone. But now Peter Wells, owner of the world-famous Chappaquiddick Ferry (think Senator Kennedy and the Dike Bridge, think JAWS), is going to try it.
THE ELECTRIC FERRY will tell the story of one of the great gambles ever made in the hyper-cautious world of waterborne commercial transportation. The private owner this world-renowned public ferry service looks with alarm toward a future of depleted oil reserves and worsening environmental crises and, taking a personal and business stand against both these epochal threats, risks everything to build the first battery-charged, electrically driven, car and passenger ferry in the United States. As the movie follows the revolutionary effort to design, build and run a ferry that runs on battery power alone – a thing no other form of large-scale public transportation on land, sea, or air has every attempted – we’ll also dig into the singular, often astonishing story of the ferry itself.
All day, every day, it carries three cars and just a few passengers back and forth between the neighboring and often celebrated islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Chappaquiddick, a route just 527 feet long. But it’s also a story that stretches back more than 200 years and, incredibly enough, puts the Chappy Ferry in the middle of one drama that helped to change the political history of a nation (the car accident whose aftermath is still known by the byword “Chappaquiddick”) and another the popular culture of a planet (the role of the ferry on camera and behind the scenes in a film called JAWS).
On the Vineyard and Chappy, we’ll also meet unique, eloquent, diverse, skilled and funny characters who run the ferry and depend on it every day of their lives – individuals for whom the success or failure of the first electric ferry represents something more than a pioneering effort by one man to stave off oil shortages and environmental ruin: It will affect their fundamental ability to travel from one place to another for years to come, a right most Americans can claim without a second thought.
THE ELECTRIC FERRY began life as The Chappy Ferry Movie, a short which comes with The Chappy Ferry Book. At 15 minutes, The Chappy Ferry Movie compliments the book and brings the ferry to life, but does not tell the entire story. Funding will allow us to finish telling this rich story.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge is that Peter Wells, after weighing all the issues, will decide to build and run his new ferry the conventional way, using diesel power. But even this outcome would prove dramatic – first because Peter would have to forsake a dearly held dream to build the first electrically driven ferry, and second because the construction, launch, and maiden voyage of any new boat, now matter how it’s driven, is a fascinating epic.
We have a team of experienced and passionate professionals who have already filmed a short documentary on the Chappy Ferry -- see our project video above -- and we are exceptionally well prepared to document the construction of the new ferry from keel to mast lights and from drawings to launch.
Producer-director John Wilson has a 20-year career television, including coverage of the Olympics and America's Cup. Tom Dunlop, the author of THE CHAPPY FERRY BOOK (Vineyard Stories, 2012), shares with John a lifelong passion for the ferry and serves as both a writer for the documentary as well as our resident historian and researcher. Scott Shucher, editor and one of our cameramen, is as good a visual storyteller as there is. Singer-songwriter Kevin Keady of Chappaquiddick has already written, orchestrated and recorded a hooky, calypso-flavored track for the film – One Way Home – and is eager to write more music for the new documentary.
Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The sample video is actually our short documentary, The Chappy Ferry Movie. We were charged with creating a piece that complimented The Chappy Ferry Book. Our charge was in approximately 15 minutes bring the ferry to life. The history of the ferry is covered in the book so we created something that could be viewed either before or after reading the book. Both the book and movie have been well received.
As we dug into this project we came across more old film, more old photos and more great stories then we had time to tell in the The Chappy Ferry Movie. When the ferry's owner, Peter Wells, began to discuss building an electric ferry we knew that this was the next step for us to take.
When the movie is funded we will send out all of the non-movie gifts which are ferry tickets, a copy of the book and the sunset harbor cruise. If anyone does go for the sunset cruise on the ferry we will make sure that you are well cared for and well fed.