Passenger Ferry Project Sinks

Rob Temple
Passenger Ferry Project Sinks

NC Ferry Division abandons plans for passenger-only ferry service.

After nearly five years of planning and prepping for a high-speed passenger-only ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke the NCDOT’s Ferry Division has finally thrown in the towel on the whole concept. As each proposed launching date has come and gone over the past few years it was anyone’s guess as to when or if this ship would ever sail. When the Ocracoke Current got wind of the new change of plans, I was dispatched to the Ferry Division’s headquarter to get the scoop. 

After some confusion I was referred to a ferry service representative who agreed to an interview under condition of anonymity. I knew he was for real when he appeared in one of those spiffy black windbreakers with epaulettes the ferry workers always wear along with black gloves when they direct cars on and off the ferries at night. 

I asked him what had caused construction of the new ferry to take so long and ultimately to be terminated. 

“Well,” he said, “the plans called for the vessel to be made of aluminum and it turns out welding aluminum aint as simple as we’d thought. It takes equipment and skills not generally found in N.C, voc. Tech programs.  We were doing fine until the Coast Guard inspector came.”

What did they say,” I asked.

 “Said the welding job wouldn’t pass. Said he could make better seams with duct tape and chewing gum. Wouldn’t meet the standards set by the Marine Safety Office. When I asked him where that was at he said Washington, D.C. so I reminded him that down here we don’t care how they do things up north. I told him if he didn’t like our new ferry he should have seen the old mail boats we used to ferry people on before there was a ferry service.”

“What did he have say about that?” I asked.

“Said the Coast Guard had seen them old mail boats. That’s why they started the Marine Safety Office! He said they didn’t want no drownings. It would reflect badly on our state. I told him he’d have to pick a number and get in line to reflect badly on this state: House Bill 2? The introduction of a bill to allow teachers to bring guns to school?  Jesse Helms??

“Besides, I told him, drownings would be very unlikely on this ferry’s route. If the dadburn boat was to sink the passengers wouldn’t even get their feet wet! We got pot-holes on Highway 12 deeper than Pamlico Sound but you can’t tell them folks nothing. So we just ended up pulling the plug on the whole idea.”

“That’s too bad,” I said. “So much time, money and effort all wasted.  What are you going to do with those fancy barges you’ve brought in for mooring?” 

“Well,” he said, “one idea is to load them with vehicles that routinely pull up in the “Priority” lane without passes.” 

“Oh,” said, “so then you’d tow them across behind the ferries?”

“Nope,” he said, punctuating it with a stream of expectorated tobacco juice.

“What about the roofed waiting areas?” I asked.

“Now those,” he said, “we’re going to rig out with sound systems and turn them into stages for musicians and other entertainers to perform for folks waiting hours at a time in the stacking lanes.”

I asked him about the tram cars that have already been acquired to shuttle foot passengers around Ocracoke. 

“Ah,” he said, “they’re not the first fleet of trams on Ocracoke and I doubt they’ll be the last.”

If you've read this far, we hope you've realized we need to say: April Fool's!!! 


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