Sunday, August 2, 2009
A Ferry Long Trip
Despite a rocky start, the new SeaStreak ferry service from New York to Martha's Vineyard will continue its weekend runs through Labor Day, according to SeaStreak's President James Barker. During the week, SeaStreak operates commuter ferries between Highlands, N.J., and Manhattan, and started offering ferry service to the popular Massachusetts resort island on July 17.
Bloomberg News reported on July 20 that the ferry's inaugural weekend sales were disappointing, with the high-speed catamaran's 300 seats only a third full. But the following weekend, Barker recently told CoGo by phone, about 150 passengers made each trip from three points in the New York area (Sandy Hook in New Jersey plus Wall Street and Midtown in Manhattan). Barker blames the service's slow start on a slim advertising budget, not on New Yorkers' interest.
After all, visitors from New York, New England and farther afield have long flocked to the Vineyard in the summertime, most getting there by plane, by ferry from Rhode Island or by driving to Cape Cod and taking the ferry from Woods Hole, Mass. Barker says that he's heard from SeaStreak customers that leaving directly from New York means "they can choose to go to the Vineyard a lot more often than they would otherwise."
Of course, leaving from New York means spending five hours on a boat. Can't all that time on open water be a little . . . sickening?
"It's protected water all the way down to Montauk till you clear the tip of Long Island, then you get a little open water, then you're behind Block Island where you're a little sheltered, then you get open water all the way up to the Vineyard," Barker explained. He conceded that sometimes there are swells that can trigger seasickness, one risk of traveling by boat. To make the trip a little more comfortable, SeaStreak shows movies and sells food and drinks (with a full bar) onboard. Passengers can bring their own food, but no alcohol.
Also, the boats take only people, not cars or other motor vehicles.
Barker said he expects to restart the route next summer. "We're in this business long term," he told CoGo. The cost is $125 one way, $200 round trip for adults, half price for children ages 5 to 12 (866-683-3779, http://www.seastreakusa.com/marthas.aspx).
After summer's over, Vineyard-bound travelers can catch rides with New England Fast Ferry (SeaStreak's parent company), which plies the waters from New Bedford, R.I., to Martha's Vineyard year-round ($35 one way; 866-683-3779, http://www.mvexpressferry.com). Also leaving from Rhode Island are Vineyard Fast Ferry boats, which leave from Quonset Point ($49 one way, $74 round trip; 401-295-4040, http://www.vineyardfastferry.com).
As for this summer's special guests on the island, Barker says, "I don't think there's any question that Obama's visit to the Vineyard is going to be good for the Vineyard -- and for us."RIDE THE BUS
On a recent trip aboard Bolt, one of the low-fare bus companies that paces between Washington and New York, the driver made an extra stop in Manhattan that caused mass confusion among the passengers who thought the bus was heading out of town, not into it. The layover at Sixth Avenue between Grand and Watts streets was not listed on the itinerary, which showed only the departure point at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue and the arrival address in Washington. The vehicle then idled until the top of the hour, awaiting passengers who never came and vexing riders eager to get home.
CoGo called Bolt to unmask this mystery stop. Spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said Sixth Avenue has appeared on select schedules since the D.C.-NYC service launched in March 2008. So, jot this down: The times are 8:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. daily. Avoid them if you will.TRAVEL TICKER
Last week, BWI Airport began charging $2 for the first half-hour of parking in the hourly lot. Previously, the first 30 minutes were free. Dulles and Reagan National airports also have eliminated parking grace periods in recent years, with Dulles charging $4 for the first half-hour or fraction in its garage lots and $4 for the first hour or fraction in the hourly lot; National charges $2 for the first 30 minutes or less in its hourly and daily garages. Instead of parking in short-term lots or circling the arrivals terminal when picking up passengers, drivers are encouraged to wait in the airports' free cellphone lots, which have one-hour limits at Dulles and National, and no limit at BWI.
Reporting: Christina Talcott, Andrea Sachs
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