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Jun 28, 2012 5:16 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Sag Harbor-Greenport Ferry Service Starts

Jul 3, 2012 5:52 PM

Under a hot summer sun on Saturday at one of Sag Harbor’s Pierson High School parking lots, Millie Thoeny and her husband, Christian, boarded a shuttle to whisk them to Long Wharf at water’s edge.

From there, they planned to hop aboard the Peconic Bay Water Jitney—the brand-new passenger ferry service running on a pilot basis this summer between Sag Harbor and Greenport on the North Fork—and soak up the sights.

“We thought it’s a really good idea, and it’s a beautiful day,” smiled Ms. Thoeney, 75, a coral-colored visor atop her head. Next to her in the shuttle, her husband, 80, wearing a souvenir baseball cap from Switzerland, chimed in with a chuckle about a televised golf tournament getting rained out.

The ferry boat, dubbed the John Keith, launched, as expected, on Thursday, June 28, just in time for the first of two Fourth of July holiday weekends this year, and the Thoeneys, of Manorville, were among the first passengers on its maiden weekend.

Despite a minor mechanical glitch or two that caused a delay on one of the morning departures on Saturday, it appears to be smooth sailing so far for the Water Jitney, a joint venture by Hampton Jitney President Geoff Lynch and Response Marine Principal Jim Ryan. Mr. Ryan himself was on board on Saturday, though he was so preoccupied with the launch of the business that he could not immediately provide numbers on the ferry’s first few days. They plan to offer the service through Labor Day weekend. Depending on how the summer trial goes, it could potentially become a long-term summer feature.

The fare is $20 for a round-trip ticket and $11 for a one-way ticket, with discounted amounts for children. Baggage, including bikes, is free. Passengers can make reservations at the Peconic Jitney website. On Saturday, a genial Jitney employee made the rounds on board with a handheld electronic ticketing device spitting out tickets.

A sign posted at the end of Long Wharf lists departure times for the 53-passenger boat as 8 a.m. (except for Sundays), 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m., and, on Fridays and Saturdays only, 11 p.m. A sign on Greenport’s side at Mitchell Marina lists departures from there as taking off at one hour prior to the Sag Harbor departures: 7 a.m. (except for Sundays), 9 and 11 a.m., 1, 4, 6 and 8 p.m., and, on Fridays and Saturdays only, 10 p.m.

Shortly before its 2 p.m. departure time on Saturday, the ferry pulled in to the end of Long Wharf. Staffers sporting navy Hampton Jitney T-shirts leaped out, tied the boat to the pier, set up a ramp, and about 15 passengers, give or take, filed off. The Thoenys then joined the roughly 20 other passengers for the trip to Greenport, which takes about 45 minutes.

Most of the passengers on that day and time turned out to be visitors coming from the Greenport side to Sag Harbor for the day.

Debbie Honerkamp chose a front-row seat on the upper deck, where she and her daughter-in-law, Valerie, flipped through a glossy magazine of Hamptons pools, manicured lawns and large houses. Between them sat some shopping bags containing jewelry.

The Honerkamp family—which also included Debbie’s husband, Phil, 64, Valerie, who declined to divulge her age, Valerie’s husband, Jeffrey, 36, and Valerie and Jeffrey’s children, Paxton, 5, and Cayden, 3—hail from Garden City, but they summer in Southold. The ferry ride was part of Debbie’s 65th birthday present; her birthday was Saturday. They were on their way back to the North Fork, following a birthday lunch at B. Smith’s restaurant near Long Wharf and a “little retail therapy,” as Valerie put it.

“This is the maiden voyage this trip, this weekend, so that’s why we decided to take the ferry over, for my birthday, with my daughter-in-law, who’s really more like a daughter, her husband, and our two grandchildren,” a shades-wearing Debbie explained.

“The captain was so nice on the way over,” commented Valerie, noting that he gave her young son a behind-the-scenes look at the ship’s operation.

A handful of other passengers said they also lunched at B. Smith’s while on their jaunts to Sag Harbor. All spoke of how much they enjoyed the ferry.

Several hours later, on a return trip to Sag Harbor, Keith Minoff, 54, of Northampton, Massachussetts, explained that he and his wife, Linda, 53, who are staying at an East Marion bed-and-breakfast on the North Fork, had considered visiting Shelter Island this summer, but “we didn’t want to have to bring our cars on the ferry,” he said. Between the car-free aspect and the lure of Fourth of July fireworks in Sag Harbor that night, they chose to go to Sag Harbor instead.

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I hear its the only affordable boat ride out of Sag Harbor...

I hope it works out as it will open up integration between the two forks allowing people to cross the pond to enjoy restaurants, shopping, and entertainment and cultural events on both forks. Of course, what is also needed is a transportation system to get around to different places once you have gone across. Each village on each fork could develop shuttles to service the shuttles so that more options are available to the ferry ...more
By V.Tomanoku (788), southampton on Jul 3, 12 11:45 PM
The "transportation system to get around..." has been in place for decades - it is called "your car". It operates on "your schedule" and is facilitated by the North Ferry and the South Ferry. For two people traveling round trip the cost is five dollars LESS than the new greatest thing.
By VOS (1230), WHB on Jul 4, 12 12:28 AM
And what's your value of "drinking responsibly" by leaving "your car" at home and taking public transportation to avoid a "DWI" and possibly hurting yourself or someone else? I'd say that's worth spending a few extra bucks for those who drink.
By getalife (60), Southampton on Sep 17, 12 2:06 PM
Please build a bridge to New London, Conn. The ferry's overcharge, are late and are generally undependable. How many times did I miss my reservation because of the Cross Sound Ferry because of either the North Ferry or the South Ferry or both.
By rrc1049 (63), Bridgehampton on Jul 6, 12 12:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
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