The 233-foot M.V. Eagle, the Steamship Authority’s largest and most extravagant ferry, arrived in Woods Hole 24 hours ahead of schedule on Tuesday. Sailing out of a cold fog bank into the Vineyard Sound beneath a torrent of sleet and rain, the $8-million ferry completed her voyage from Louisiana.

A crowd of Steamship Authority Personnel braved the cold, wet weather and lined the wharf to view the vessel for the first time. Fog horns above the pilot houses of both the M.V. Eagle and the docked M.V. Katama blasted one after another. On the dock cheers rose from the crowd.

Ray Martin, public information officer for the Steamship Authority, clicked away with a camera. John W. Gilbert, the naval architect and designer of the vessel, was dockside doing the same.

Without hesitating Capt. Edward Jackson of the M.V. Eagle backed the ferry into slip number one. James H. Smith, Falmouth Steamship Authority governor, stood at the ramp ready to go abroad. “She looks beautiful,” he told operations manager Phillip J. Parent as the two approached the vessel.

The brightly lit interior of the freight deck of the vessel extends uninterrupted from stern to bow.

It was a week-long voyage from Morgan City, La., to Woods Hole, with a variety of weather from rough to fair. Captain Jackson told Mr. Gilbert as soon as they met that he was pleased with the way the vessel ran the 1,900-mile voyage which took the vessel as much as 300 miles offshore.

The two stood in the pilot house, which is 40 feet above the water and two decks higher than the pilot house on the M.V. Islander.

I have a lot of respect for her after the trip,” Captain Jackson told Mr. Gilbert. He said backing the vessel into the slip was easy. “She has power to spare. She steers easily and spins around like a kiddie car,” he said.

Visibility from the pilot house is 360 degrees, Mr. Gilbert said: “You can see completely around you.”

The Motor Vessel Eagle is the best of the new and old ferry boats that have been under the ownership of the authority,” Mr. Parent said. Not since the M.V. Nantucket was built in 1974 has the authority had a new vessel join its fleet.

Her forward pilot house and profile is reminiscent of the S.S. Naushon and the M.V. Nantucket. But her promenade, which runs on the port and starboard sides, is mindful of even older ferryboats like the S.S. Nobska. Many hundreds of passengers on the new vessel will have the freedom to wander outside along the bulkhead with shelter overhead and a view unobstructed by glass.

In the brightly lit engine room, chief engineer Joe Dawicki gave a tour for employees, showing off the clean power plant. The two 1,500-horse-power diesel engines sat idle but were still hot from the long ocean trip. A generator roared, continuing to bring electrical power to the vessel.

We had to replace a few oil pipes on the way but otherwise it was smooth. She handled 15 knots easily in the ocean water. It was better than anticipated,” he said.

Just about the frieght deck were the main powder blue and cream-colored lobbies capable of accommodating the 1,475 passengers comfortably from any weather. Mr. Gilbert said in winter there is heat and in summer air conditioning.

There is one inside year-round lunchroom and an outside summer lunch counter topside.

Mr. Gilbert said he and his Boston based staff conducted a nationwide search for a comfortable seat for the bessel. “We ended up settling with a seat shaped like the Staten Island ferry wood lath bench seat, built in the 1920s,” he said.

The seat is recognizable to anyone who visits Epcot Center, where it is also used. The new seats on the Eagle are built of fiberglass and covered with light blue cushions.

Lifejackets are partially hidden under each seat.

In the front of the main lobby sits a large-screened television with a video cassette recorder.

There is also a sick-bay room with a bed, and handicapped rest rooms and elevators.

The vessel has two smokestackes – one is operational, the other is cosmetics and houses an emergency generator.

The Eagle is scheduled to makes its first visit to Vineyard Haven for an open house on Tuesday, Dec. 22. The vessel will be open to the public from 2 to 4 p.m.

After additional preparation, the vessel will begin service between Hyannis and Nantucket. The Eagle is planned for service between the Vineyard and Woods Hole in June of next year.