repairs needed on ferry; routes will be affected longer
The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division
announced this week that several runs on the Swan Quarter-Ocracoke and
Cedar Island-Ocracoke routes would be suspended for several days while
repairs are made to the Motor Vessel Pamlico.
After examining the ferry in the shipyard, it has been determined that
extensive repairs are needed in the ship’s bulkhead, stern section, aft
of the engine room.
It will take approximately 7 to10 days to repair and have it inspected
by the U.S. Coast Guard before the vessel will be ready for service.
Shipyard employees will be working seven days a week to facilitate the
repairs as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the three other
sound-class vessels, MV Carteret, MV Cedar Island, and MV Silver Lake
are continuing to make daily departures at these routes.
The Ferry Division analyzed traffic figures to determine the routes
with the highest traffic volume and has developed an alternate schedule
for these routes that will begin today, Friday, Oct. 22, until the
winter schedule takes effect Nov. 2.
Beginning Friday, the schedule will be as follows:
From Cedar Island to Ocracoke departing at 7 a.m., 9:30, 12:30 p.m.,
3:30, 6 and 8:30;
From Ocracoke to Cedar Island departing at 7 a.m., 10, 12:30 p.m.,
3:30, 6 and 8:30;
From Ocracoke to Swan Quarter departing at 6:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and
From Swan Quarter to Ocracoke departing at 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Travelers with reservations for any of the suspended runs during this
time period should call the reservations center at 1-800-BY-FERRY
(293-3779) and press 2 to make alternative arrangements.
These routes normally return to a reduced number of departures for the
winter months, which will begin on Tuesday, Nov. 2. The winter schedule
can be found at the ferry website at
www.ncferry.org in PDF form.
The MV Pamlico was built in 1965, as was the MV Silver Lake. Both Sound
Class ferries have 45 years of service within the Ferry Division’s
fleet. Just recently, the N.C. Dept. of Transportation awarded a $14.9
million contract to Orange Shipbuilding Co. in Orange, Texas, to build
a second Sound Class ferry with funding provided by the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A $13 million contract was awarded last
year for the first of these two “sister” vessels, which will be
completed in the summer of 2011.
More ferry problems have some routes to Ocracoke suspended
The North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division has
suspended several runs on the Swan Quarter- Ocracoke and Cedar
The runs are likely to be suspended for several days while welders fix
problems on the Motor Vessel Pamlico.
The Ferry Division had just returned to normal after September storms
caused serious shoaling in the Rollinson Channel in Hatteras Inlet that
forced the division to use the smaller ferries only and even to shut
down the Hatteras-Ocracoke route for several days.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent several weeks dredging the
channel, which is now operable.
While dealing with shoaling on the Hatteras Inlet route, the Ferry
Division also had to suspend runs from Swan Quarter and Cedar Island to
Ocracoke for several days for repairs on another boat.
The following runs have been suspended:
The 7 a.m. run from Ocracoke to Cedar Island;
The 9:30 a.m. run from Cedar Island to Ocracoke;
The noon run from Ocracoke to Swan Quarter; and
The 5 p.m. run from Swan Quarter to Ocracoke.
A return to the normal schedule will occur as soon as the MV Pamlico is
fixed and running safely. Travelers with reservations for any of these
runs during this week should call the reservations center at
1-800-BY-FERRY (293-3779) and press 2 to make alternative arrangements.
The Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry is running normally with summer departures
of every half hour because of the continued large amount of ferry
NCDOT also offers ferry travel information on Twitter, a free
social-networking Web site. Citizens can get brief updates, or
“tweets,” for ferry routes by signing up at www.twitter.com/ncdot_ferry.
October 5, 2010
The Hatteras Inlet ferries resumed service on Monday
By CATHERINE KOZAK
new navigation channel has been marked between Hatteras and Ocracoke
islands, allowing ferry traffic to resume on Monday, Oct. 4.
But ferries are still running every hour rather than on the half-hour
for the time being, said North Carolina Ferry Division spokeswoman Lucy
"We’re just trying to give the dredge the room it needs to finish up,”
Back-ups at the ferry dock stacking lanes “haven’t been that bad,”
Wallace said, averaging no more than an hour.
Wallace said that the division expects the normal Hatteras-Ocracoke
schedule to resume when the dredging is completed, hopefully by
In September, 30,463 vehicles --- 78,067 passengers--- traveled on the
route, she said.
Charter boats, which use the same channel as the ferries, were able to
go out again Sunday afternoon, said Rom Whitaker, captain of the
53-foot vessel Release.
Since many charter boats draw about 4 ½ feet --- about the same amount
as the smaller Hatteras-class ferries --- Whitaker said that there is
as much concern from charter boat owners about safety when the channel
is so badly shoaled.
With the recent heavy rain and northwest winds creating tidal
conditions about 3 feet above normal, Whitaker said that the worries
about shoaling are not over yet. Some commercial boats have recently
reported that there’s about 7 feet of water in the inlet, he said, so
problems could develop when the tide subsides.
“If we run our boats aground, we do a lot of damage,” he said.
Weather is not the only challenge in keeping the channel clear. It is
also that the responsibility for keeping the channel open is divided
between the federal and state governments, and one is broker than the
The Army Corps of Engineers had just completed a year-long $800,000
project in Rollinson Channel ---- about 70 days of dredging ----with
sidecasters Merritt and Fry, said corps’ project manager Chris
“We’ve been able to, really, barely keep it open,” he said.
But Hurricane Earl and a series of coastal low pressure areas followed
by the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole pushed sand right back into
the channel. By that point, there was no money left to do any
more dredging, Frabotta said. With some reprogramming, the
district found $300,000 to do an additional 28 days of sidecaster
dredging in the channel’s federal portion. So far, about 20 days have
been completed, he said.
On Wednesday, the corps will assess conditions from a survey taken
today and a decision will be made to continue or to stop, saving the
Next year, the federal budget to dredge the ferry channel is just
$50,000, Frabotta said. The corps, he said, is coordinating with the
state in looking for more funding.
Ocracoke Island, meanwhile, is bouncing back after losing four days,
including the weekend, since much of its business comes from day
trippers coming to the island from the north.
Ferry traffic to the island was also hindered by damage to a
sound-class ferry serving Swan Quarter and Cedar Island, resulting in
cancellation of six daily runs. The repaired ferry is expected to be
back in service by the end of the week, Wallace said.
Tony McGowan, owner of Down Creek Gallery on Ocracoke, said that motels
and cottage rental companies did a good job notifying visitors not to
use the Hatteras ferry to get to the island.
Still, he said, business was only about one-quarter of what it would
have been normally. And that’s on top of the 4 or 5 days lost
early September with Earl.
“It was a big hit,” for the island’s economy, he said.
The following runs have been suspended on the Ocracoke-Cedar Island and
Ocracoke-Swan Quarter ferry routes:
The 6:30 a.m. run from Ocracoke to Swan Quarter;
The 9:30 a.m. run from Swan Quarter to Ocracoke;
The 12:30 p.m. run from Ocracoke to Cedar Island;
The 3:30 p.m. run from Cedar Island to Ocracoke;
The 6 p.m. run from Ocracoke to Cedar Island; and
The 8:30 p.m. run from Cedar Island to Ocracoke.
The following runs will continue as scheduled:
The 7 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. departures from Swan Quarter to
The 9:30 a.m., noon and 4:30 p.m. runs from Ocracoke to Swan Quarter;
The 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. runs from Ocracoke to
And the 7 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. runs from Cedar Island
Travelers with reservations for any of the suspended runs should call
the reservations center at 1-800-BY-FERRY (293-3779) and Press 2 to
make alternative arrangements.
shoaling shuts down Hatteras Inlet ferry
This week’s storm has apparently finished off what Hurricane Earl
started in early September.
The shoaling is serious enough in the Hatteras Inlet ferry channel that
the North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division has shut
down operations for now.
“The channel we were using is gone,” said Lucy Wallace, public
information director for the division, who termed the shoaling
“extreme” in a media release.
Ferries are not running between Hatteras and Ocracoke today, and
Wallace could not venture a guess on when they might. In her
media release, she said that finding and marking a new channel may take
“as long as two days.”
The Rollinson Channel is federally maintained, and the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers (USACE) has been working on the shoaling problem since
shortly after Hurricane Earl passed just offshore of the islands on
Chris Frabotta, project manager for dredging for the Corps, said that
the agency requested and received authority and emergency funding to
address the problems after Earl.
The Corps got $300,000 in emergency funds for 14 days of dredging.
The dredge Merritt had mechanical problems after 12 days of working in
the channel and had to be moved for repairs.
Meanwhile, a low pressure area that combined with the remnants of
Tropical Storm Nicole, battered the area with rain and heavy winds
yesterday, which exacerbated the shoaling.
Frabotta said he expects the dredge to be back and working in the
channel tomorrow for two more days.
At that point, he said, USACE will re-survey the area to see how
successful the dredging has been. If necessary, he said, the agency
will request funds for an additional 12 days of funding or work with
the U.S. Coast Guard to mark a new channel.
After the shoaling from Earl, the Ferry Division had to stop running
the larger river-class ferries and run only the Hatteras-class boats.
The division did a test run with a larger ferry on Tuesday, Sept. 28,
but the ferry ran aground and had to return to Ocracoke, unload
vehicles, and re-load them on a smaller boat. Some tourists
were on that trip said the trip from Ocracoke to Hatteras ended up
taking about three hours.
During the tourist season, Ocracoke businesses are dependent on
day-trippers from the north who come to the island to spend the day,
eat, and shop.
Using only the smaller ferries during an especially busy September
created a logjam in the ferry lines at both Hatteras and Ocracoke.
Wallace said the division was “using every boat we had,” but still the
waiting time for day trippers was trying on many days.
“Day trippers are a huge part of our business,” said Tony McGowan,
owner of Down Creek Gallery at Ocracoke. “If the ferries
running, they aren’t coming.”
And, he added, that if the ferries aren’t moving the usual number of
vehicles, business also suffers.
“It’s not only affecting our efforts to get customers here,” said Alan
Sutton, owner of Tradewinds Tackle, “but it’s also affecting our
ability to get delivery of products.”
Today, the Ferry Division is waiving tolls for Ocracoke residents and
commercial supply vehicles. Residents must show proof of residency in
the form of a driver license and will be given priority re-entering the
island. However, they must arrive at Swan Quarter or Cedar Island 30
minutes prior to departure.
Tolls are also being waived for Ocracoke residents leaving the island,
but no priority status will be given. Residents must get in the
stand-by lane and arrive 30 minutes prior to departure going to Swan
Quarter or Cedar Island. Reservations are being honored as well.
By all accounts, Ocracoke was quiet today.
However, the lack of ferry service from Hatteras can be problematic for
Scott Caldwell of Coastal Inshore Charters made a special delivery of
prescription medication today to Ocracoke.
Caldwell said that someone from the ferry docks called Teach’s Lair
Marina, where his boat is docked, this morning and wanted to know if
someone who didn’t have a charter could deliver the medicine to the
other side of the inlet. The only alternative was to call the
Caldwell said he didn’t see any need for that and ran the medication to
Ocracoke – all in a day’s work. “Whatever it takes,” he said.
Alan Sutton said there are two big weddings scheduled on Ocracoke this
The sister of one bride came into his shop today to buy boots because
the wedding site was still flooded from the heavy rain. She reported
that some of the wedding party and guests were staying on Hatteras and
they were trying to figure out how to get to the ceremony.
The other bride, Sutton said, has a wedding dress that was on Hatteras
Sutton said the uncertainty and lack of communication about these
transportation problems get trying, and he gets frustrated with the
bureaucracy of fixing such things as a shoaled ferry channel.
“However,” he added philosophically, “it’s just part of living here and
most of your customers understand. It is what makes this island unique
For up-to-date information on ferry schedules, call 1-800-293-3779
(BY-FERRY) and Press 1, or go to www.ncferry.org.