May 7, 2015
Passenger ferry makes stops at Hatteras and Ocracoke
.....WITH SLIDE SHOW
By Connie Leinbach
The Ocracoke Observer
Many Ocracoke islanders who visited the passenger ferry, the Provincetown III, on Tuesday, May 5, were heartened.
“I’m greatly encouraged,” noted Leslie Lanier, owner of Books to Be Red, as she noted the bicycle racks on the bow.
an answer to our economic future,” said Mickey Baker, owner of
Mermaid’s Folly. However, so is going back to the short route, she
“I’m all for anything that brings people here, but we
should not be complacent about getting back the short route,” she
said. “The perfect scenario would be to have the short route with
the car ferries and also the passenger ferry. We would boom.”
the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry switched from the shorter route to one that
takes longer in December 2013, visitors have endured long waits and
ridership has dropped 20 percent.
“Right now, we have a major
congestion problem at Hatteras,” said North Carolina Ferry Division
Director Ed Goodwin. “Day trippers are turning around rather than
waiting for hours to board a ferry. Because of that, fewer people are
visiting Ocracoke. We have to do something.”
III, on its way from Tortuga to Boston, made the stop in Ocracoke late
on Tuesday after conducting trial runs from the Hatteras ferry dock to
Silver Lake on Monday and Tuesday. N.C. Department of Transportation
Ferry Division officials and members of the feasibility study team
conducted a show-and-tell meeting in Ocracoke School gym at the same
time the boat was open for the public to tour.
The day before, they gave the tours and made their presentation at the Ferry Docks in Hatteras village.
has no free ferries, and Bay State Cruises is the owner of the
Provincetown III, a catamaran-style boat whose top speed is 30 knots.
By contrast, the car ferries to Ocracoke have a top speed of about 8
knots, said Christopher J. Bock, superintendent of operations at
Provincetown III Captain John Molineaux pointed out
the boat’s features and noted that Ocracoke is similar to Provincetown,
Mass., where this is one of three boats that make three trips daily
from Boston to the Cape Cod destination from May 15 to mid-October each
“We get a lot of day-trippers to Provincetown,” he said.
addition to those passengers, there are the folks going for more than a
day, and they haul their luggage, coolers, even bikes, onto the boat.
“There’s no limit on luggage,” he said.
the boat is Coast Guard-approved for 149 passengers, including infants,
there are 200 seats, both inside and top-side. A concession
stand, including a full-service bar, is on board as well.
ride between the two Massachusetts ports is one and a half hours over
50 miles of water, 40 of which is in the open sea, Molineaux said.
The runs between Hatteras and Ocracoke took a little over one hour, Bock said.
“It was a very smooth ride,” he added.
noted that in water where the waves are closer together, the boat can
skim across the top of them, which creates the smooth ride. In weather
where the waves are farther apart, the boat will go up and down in the
troughs, creating a bumpier ride.
“Anything that would help our
community, why not explore it as a supplement to what we already have?”
noted Ann Warner, owner of Howard’s Pub, after attending the
Indeed, Goodwin, who attended along with Jed
Dixon, Ferry Division deputy director, said the division has been doing
a lot of research in the last year into the different types of
He stressed that the Ferry Division is
working hard to eliminate the long lines at the Hatteras Ferry
dock. He is not looking to eliminate car ferries, but
supplementing them with, ideally, two passenger ferries.
“This kind of boat coasts about $5.2 million to build while a new car ferry is $14 to $18 million,” Goodwin said.
the Provincetown III has a draft of six feet, a similar boat for the
Pamlico Sound would have to have a shallower draft. Goodwin said
that a possibility for an Ocracoke boat would be jet propulsion (as
with jet skis) instead of a propeller, such as on the Provincetown III.
the ride from Boston to Provincetown is $80 round-trip (both
scheduled), Will Letchworth of Volkert Inc., the consulting company
that’s doing the feasibility study, had a poster showing about a dozen
other passenger ferries around the country whose prices begin as low as
Nothing has been decided on any of this, officials
said. Many questions still have to be answered, said Tim Hass,
Ferry Division spokesman.
Among the questions in the study will
be parking; would people leave their cars; how much would it cost
should it be state-owned, privately owned or a combination of the two;
should the Ferry Division lease one for a few seasons first; or should
there be year-round dredging of the inlet?
Hass thought that 75
to 100 people visited the boat on Tuesday and about 30 attended the
presentation in the school gym. About 30 people toured the
boat in Hatteras on Monday.
“Everyone has a lot of good questions
that the study will answer,” he said. “Most are interested in keeping
an open mind about it.”
In addition, Beverly Paul, executive
director of Hyde County Transit, a nonprofit that provides small-bus
transportation for Ocracoke residents to go up the beach every Tuesday,
is looking at how to move people around the village once they would get
here via a passenger ferry.
Jennifer Mason, owner of Corkey’s Store, after touring the boat was impressed. “It’s pretty cool,” she said.
Star Ely, an Ocracoke eighth-grader with Mason, agreed. “It could bring more tourism,” she said.
said on-board surveying of Hatteras ferry passengers will begin June 8
and he expects to have recommendations in late August to share with
He encouraged islanders to weigh in on the subject on the study’s website, which is http://go.ncsu.edu/2015passengerferrystudy.
Business owners can comment at http://go.ncsu.edu/passengerferrybusiness .
(For more news and features about Ocracoke, go to www.ocracokeobserver.com.)
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