High Praise for the Water Jitney

Delighted squeals, quiet engine on one of the year’s last trips to Long Wharf
Jim Ryan, whose idea it was to offer passenger ferry service between Greenport and Sag Harbor, was its captain on Saturday, making several trips in and out of Mitchell Park Marina. Carrie Ann Salvi

    “I hope they do this again,” said Paulette Balsam of Amagansett, smiling on board the Peconic Bay Water Jitney as she returned from Greenport to Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf on Saturday. As the company’s temporary permit is set to expire on Sunday, many of those riding the ferry over the weekend were wondering if it would be their last chance.
    Adding to the excitement of the ride that day was the Coast Guard’s ship Eagle a few feet away upon departure from Mitchell Park during Greenport’s maritime festival.
    Another rider on the top deck of the Sag Harbor-bound ferry was Kendal Kelly, a first-timer from Riverhead who said she hadn’t been to Greenport in years. “It was far more simplistic then . . . no honky-tonks and very few art galleries,” she said. She headed out to the North Fork for the pleasure of a boat ride around Shelter Island, to revisit views and memories of younger days filled with sailing and cocktails. Now, she said, she misses being on the water.
    A gander at Sag Harbor during the day would be interesting, too, she said, having been there only occasionally in the evening to go to the theater. She screamed in excitement when the passenger ferry passed through a sailboat race before its arrival on the South Fork. Passengers wore grins and cameras on the warm, sunny, slightly windy day. A Phil Collins tune played as background to the striking views and minimal engine noise.
    Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride said on Tuesday that he had enjoyed a trip as well, early in the summer season, along with Sag Harbor Police Chief Tom Fabiano, Dee Yardley, the superintendent of the Department of Public Works, and Beth Kamper, the village clerk. “We had lunch and a beautiful ride back,” Mr. Gilbride said.
    He has heard nothing negative, he said, and has received “many favorable comments from a lot of people.” As for the future, “I don’t know what their plans are moving forward.”
    Jim Ryan of Response Marine, who embarked on the trial venture with Geoffrey Lynch of Hampton Jitney, had an answer on Saturday afternoon: He wants to do it again, and earlier in the year, if the two villages and the county let him. Acting as captain on the 2 p.m. trip to Greenport from Sag Harbor that day, he said he had 51 reservations for the 53-passenger boat, which was not uncommon on a Saturday, “or even a sunny Tuesday.” Those using the service were mostly traveling to eat and browse in one of the two sister villages.
    There were a few commuters who rode this season, too — those from Sag Harbor who have worked in Greenport since the recent opening of the Blue Canoe restaurant, for example, said Jason Lindiakos of Rocky Point, a Peconic Jitney employee. “A lot of repeat business, familiar faces,” he said, whether for lunch, dinner, or a pleasure cruise. “Everybody loved it . . . especially on top.” They also liked that the captain took both routes around Shelter Island, so they could see both sides. There were some who had a few drinks later in the evening — “better than driving,” he said.
    The ferry almost always adhered to the published schedule, Mr. Lindiakos said, although service was shut down early one day last week, when it was “pretty rough” and there was a high-wind advisory. There were no reservations and only one one-way passenger all day.
    The season’s trial contained an engine problem or two, resulting in the use of Jitney buses and both the North and South Ferries to get across Shelter Island. Bridgford Hunt, the manager of the North Ferry Company, said on Saturday that the passenger-only Peconic Jitney was a pleasurable option for visitors to the area, and that his company was happy to help when necessary.
    “I look forward to the continued talks regarding either seasonal or year-round ferry service,” Greenport Village Mayor David Nyce wrote in an e-mail. “The information that I have gathered from the merchants in the village is that it was a huge success.”
    “I want to go out and enjoy life,” said Pat McArdle, who was all aboard with her three rescued dogs on Saturday, “to take a ride and go around Greenport.” She drove from Islip to Sag Harbor and strolled over to Long Wharf for a look.
    She sat in a cushioned seat in the cabin looking out at the scenery through large windows, with photographs above of historic Sag Harbor and Greenport, including one from the 1950s, when a ferry regularly landed at Long Wharf.