ferries are all repaired, but routes to
and from Ocracoke are now on winter schedule
The sound-class ferry Pamlico, newly repaired, arrived back on Ocracoke
on Friday, Oct. 29, after undergoing extensive repairs for almost a
Since Oct. 21, ferry runs on the Swan Quarter-Ocracoke and Cedar
Island-Ocracoke routes were modified due to the temporary loss of the
The return of the Pamlico brings the complement of toll ferries at
Ocracoke back up to four. However, the modified schedule will
remain in effect. It is, essentially, the winter schedule, which went
into effect on Nov. 2, according to Lucy Wallace, public affairs
officer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry
Wallace explained that while four sound-class ferries operate from
Ocracoke, only three will be in service now through the winter months,
even with the return of the Pamlico. That’s because the Silver Lake
will be out of service for maintenance.
Like the Pamlico, the Silver Lake is one of the oldest in the
four-vessel fleet. Both were built in 1965. The Carteret was
built in 1989, and the Cedar Island was built in 1994.
Next summer, folks heading to Ocracoke via Cedar Island or Swan Quarter
may experience fewer delays with the addition of two new ferries being
built in Texas.
The first new ferry, approved Oct. 1, 2009, by the Board of
Transportation, will cost $13 million and is federally funded, Wallace
said. The second one was approved Oct. 4 for $14.9 million, and was
made possible through The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
This year, Wallace said, the Ferry Division restored the number of runs
to the same levels as 2008 after having to cut some runs in 2009
because of budget constraints.
“We do everything we can to operate 365 days a year to serve the
residents and businesses of Ocracoke,” she said.
The free ferry route between Hatteras and Ocracoke will go to a winter
schedule also on Nov. 2, but crews there can add boats as traffic
“We don’t have extra boats in the sound but we do at Hatteras,” she
Meanwhile, the Rollinson Channel, which is the ferry route between
Hatteras and Ocracoke, was dredged and a new navigation channel marked
in early October after extensive shoaling from Hurricane Earl and the
remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole made the channel impassable.
The Ferry Division suspended all ferry runs Sept. 24 to 26 between
Hatteras Village and Ocracoke.
Penny Schmitt, chief of public affairs for the U. S. Army Corps of
Engineers (ACE), Wilmington district, explained that the recently
completed dredging created a “controlling depth of eight and one half
feet at mean low water,” which is sufficient for the ferry and charter
Rom Whitaker, captain of the charter boat Release, out of Hatteras,
noted that the channel going out to the ocean is fine now but that a
sandbar in the channel going out to the ocean is forming and cautioned
boat captains to pay attention when heading out to sea.
“Where they have the buoys is not the deepest,” he said. “The channel
moves around almost weekly.”
The Rollinson Channel is dredged by the federal government through the
Corps. Schmitt said the Corps continually surveys all seven
Carolina ferry routes.
While a final United States budget for fiscal year 2010-2011, which
began Oct. 1, has not yet been passed, dredging is funded under a
“continuing resolution” of the U.S. Senate, enabling government
services to continue while the new budget is hammered out, Schmitt said.
There is $50,000 in the proposed budget for dredging the Rollinson
Channel in 2010-2011, yet each year this number is different because of
the dynamic nature of the channel, she said.
“It’s like sweeping—you have to do it on a periodic basis,” she said.
“And there’s always more need than there is money.”
There are 1,000 miles of federal channel in North Carolina, Schmitt
explained, including two deepwater ports at Morehead City and
Wilmington, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, and several inlets,
including Hatteras, Oregon, and Little River.
All recent surveys of inlets and channels are published on the ACE’s
SCHEDULE FOR FERRIES TO AND FROM OCRACOKE
The Hatteras Inlet route began hourly runs Nov. 2, but has the ability
to add extra runs as traffic volume demands. Ferries leave Ocracoke and
Hatteras on the hour from 5 a.m. until midnight.
The Ocracoke-Swan Quarter and Ocracoke-Cedar Island winter schedules
are as follows:
information on ferry schedules, call 1-800-293-3779 (BY-FERRY), and
press1, or go to www.ncferry.org.
NCDOT also offers ferry travel information on Twitter, a free website.
Citizens can get brief updates, or “tweets,” for ferry routes by
signing up at www.twitter.com/ncdot.ferry.
- From Swan
departure times are 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.;
Ocracoke to Swan
Quarter, departure times are 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and
- From Cedar
Ocracoke, departures are: 7:30 a.m., 10:30, 2 p.m. and 5 from both
Leinbach is also a reporter for The Ocracoke Observer)