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New South Ferry boat, Southern Cross, coming in March

South Ferry President Cliff Clark told the Town Board at its regular meeting Jan. 24 that the new boat slated to join the fleet would be in service by the end of March.

Dubbed the Southern Cross, the 101-foot long, 40-foot wide boat that is being built in New Bedford, Mass. will bring the company’s fleet to five boats, with four of them “101-footers,” Mr. Clark said. The Captain Bill Clark, a smaller boat, will be kept in service for the next eight years or so, Mr. Clark said, when it will be replaced by a larger boat.

South Ferry previously had a boat named the Southern Cross; that name was changed to the Lt. Joseph J. Theinert to honor the memory of the Islander killed in the line of duty.

Mr. Clark was before the board asking for authorization for South Ferry to remove an existing maintenance dock and construct a new one that is larger and can accommodate the larger boats.

The authorization by the board was unanimous and Mr. Clark said construction could begin as early as next month.

He explained that the new dock will be about 1.5 feet higher than the existing one. Supervisor Gerry Siller asked if the new dock had to be higher because of “rising sea levels.”

Mr. Clark said yes, adding the company had started raising bulkheads 12 years ago for the maintenance dock and the ferry slips. 

Clark speaking with the Town Board last week. (Credit: Ambrose Clancy)

He noted that the company has received grant money to raise the road that meets the ferries on the North Haven side and “that’s going to be our precedent to go for more grant money to do the same thing on Shelter Island.”

Mr. Clark said it was the first time ever that a private ferry company has gotten federal highway money that hasn’t “had a town-owned entity” involved.

He praised Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) for providing “the horsepower” with the state Department of Transportation and “ushered it all the way to the feds that approved several million dollars.”

He pointed out that the ferry company owns the boats and the land where the terminals sit, but still has a relationship with the county, which regulates the company, and the state, which owns the roads.

The bill for raising the road, lengthening the slips and putting in a drainage system to keep water from running into the channel will be paid by the state putting up 20% and the federal government picking up the rest of the tab.

“We’ll get it done and then do the same thing on the Shelter Island side,” Mr. Clark said.