Around the Island

Richard’s almanac: A tale of two ferries

Which is your go-to fork, North or South?

As a Shelter Islander, do you tend to identify with the North Fork or the South Fork?

I believe that there are many Islanders who think of themselves one way or the other and I think it comes from the first time they arrived here. I know from personal experience that I spent a couple of summers here before I even took the South Ferry. My orientation was with Greenport and the North Ferry. After all, you could go as a foot passenger and walk around the village — go to the movies, go to restaurants and shop. And that’s what I learned during my early visits.

My first trip out here back in the 1950s was on the Northern State Parkway which ultimately led into route 25 and we chugged along all the way to Riverhead and then on to Greenport and the ferry. The trip from the city took close to four hours. Then the expressway came and it still went to Riverhead and we again went through the North Fork to Greenport.

And I believe that those who first came out here from say, Nassau County, by way of the Sunrise Highway worked their way through the Hamptons into Sag Harbor and the ferry in North Haven.

Some people will argue to this day which is a faster route to the city. There are those who swear by the South Fork as the way to go while others extoll the virtues of the North Road as the quickest way to the expressway. And there are some who like to do the South Fork because they think it has more cachet — they like to be associated with the Hamptons.

But isn’t that why they’re here, to be — as Georgiana Ketcham’s real estate says — the un-Hampton? And positioned where we are, we can take advantage of the best of both forks.

The South Ferry gives us quick access to the ocean and Montauk for fantastic swimming, surfing and fishing. There’s excellent shopping right in Bridgehampton. T.J. Maxx and KMart stand out as popular destinations. Of course there are also the cultural attractions like Guild Hall, Bay Street Theater and the Parrish Art Museum. The list goes on. But on the other hand, there are the crowds in the summer. That’s the down side.

That’s what made the North Fork more appealing. There did not seem to be the huge traffic jams. Unfortunately that’s a thing of the past. On summer weekends it’s always a slow go on Route 25 heading east or west. There are those vineyards and the picturesque hamlets leading to the village of Greenport. Traffic jams are also exacerbated by cars traveling to and from the Cross Sound Ferry to Connecticut. It’s a painless way to get to New England and to the casinos though.        

A number of years ago when I lived here year-round for a while, I worked in Sag Harbor. So for three years I was oriented to the South Fork. My kids also went to school over there. The Harbor was not cool in those days — just a comatose factory town whose glory days were behind it. Then everything took off and we have the picture perfect village where everyone wants to live. Sometimes in the summer traffic can be backed up from the North Haven traffic circle up to the flagpole on Main Street.

So we can see how both forks are changing. That’s why Shelter Island is so wonderful. We are able to venture to the fork of our choice when they are not so crowded and return to our splendid Island home. And we have not changed that much because we have — as I heard one person put it, “The velvet rope of the ferries.”