New Jersey Scuba Diving
A ferry is a ship designed to transport people or vehicles across water on a regular schedule. Ferries generally cover only short distances in protected areas, and are not designed for the open sea. The distinction between a ferry and a steamer is a blurred one, though, especially in the waters around New York City, where the same company might operate cross-river vehicle and passenger ferries, and cross-bay passenger steamers, all for the same commuter service. Some ferries even carried rail cars.
Ferries are often quite specialized designs, with maximum deck area and passenger capacity, and drive-on / drive-off facilities for vehicles. Ferries are either single-deck or double-deck, based not on how many decks the boat actually has, but on how many decks it can simultaneously embark and debark passengers on.
The most specialized ferry design is the double-ended ferry. A double-ended ferry has rudder, propeller, loading ramps, and wheelhouse at both ends, so that the vessel may be driven in either direction with equal ease. This avoids having to back out of the ferry slip, since there is no backwards ! Of course, a design like this is going to sacrifice a lot in speed and seaworthiness, and so would really only be suited to cross-river services and the like.
A typical double-ended ferry
A double-ended ferry in dry-dock for repairs, displaying the hull form and propeller to good effect
The End of the Commuter Ferries
An old postcard of the City of Keansburg, the last of the New York commuter ferries.
Built in 1926, the City of Keansburg and her sister the City of New York were the last, biggest, and grandest of the old cross-bay ferries. Although the steamboat dock in Keansburg was destroyed in a 1962 storm, she stayed in service at Atlantic Highlands until 1968. By this time, cross-Hudson ferry service had already ceased. Ferry service in general declined in later years, due mainly to the ascendancy of the automobile, and all the bridges and tunnels that have been constructed for it.
A failed attempt to convert the Keansburg to a floating restaurant took it to Florida, where she remains today, rotting in the St. Johns River. One of her triple-expansion steam engines is on display at Allaire State Park.
The reverse side, showing the schedule
Alexander Hamilton, seen here aground on a sandbar in Highlands, circa 1975
The Alexander Hamilton was the last of the steam powered side-wheel river boats of the Hudson River Day Line. Built in 1924, she ceased operations in 1971. A well-meaning group pulled the Hamilton from the mud in 1977 and moved her to a temporary berth along the east side of the Navy pier, planning to restore her as a museum. Unfortunately, at the new more-exposed location, the old vessel was sunk and reduced to scrap by a sudden storm in November of that year. The last records indicate that the wreck is still there.
What a pity. Nothing is discernable above water in satellite imagery,
although there is a ship-shaped shadow in the water.
Ferry Service Reborn
Recently, ferry service in the New York area has seen a resurgence, with many modern fast boats plying both the Hudson and cross-bay routes that were once so important.
This should make an interesting reef some day. ( Belford NJ )
Modern fast ferries crowd the docks in front of the USS Intrepid in Manhattan.
There are three ferries I know of in the area that are diveable:
The Cranford was reincarnated as a restaurant before being sunk as a reef in 1982. The vessel was cut down to main-deck level, stripped, and gutted before sinking.
CRRNJ ferry Elizabeth was sunk as a reef in 2005. Like here sister Cranford, she also served as a restaurant for a time. Most of the major machinery was removed prior to sinking.
The Vega sank in foul weather while being towed to Florida in 1961.
The wreck is upside-down, and seldom visited.
Here's a curiosity: the Mary Murray was a Staten Island Ferry, built in 1937. She has been beached on the south bank of the Raritan River in East Brunswick since 1982. Plans to convert her to a restaurant or a nightclub never materialized. Instead, it ended up as a semi-floating storage shed, filled up with scrap metal with steel garage doors welded on both ends. The owners are "waiting for the right offer', although it's hard to imagine what that would be.
The Mary Murray, as she may be seen from the north-bound side of the Turnpike bridge. Since cut-up in place and removed.
Future artificial reef ? I doubt it - judging by her tilt, I would say that she doesn't even float anymore. The other vessel is supposed to have been the yacht of the Shah of Iran.
The ferry and her companion, seen from the opposite bank - not an easy place to get to.
Seen again, from the Turnpike bridge.
Why so many pictures of this old hulk ? I guess I'm kind of intrigued by it. What a great artificial reef this would make - just think of swimming through the interior. But even if she could be floated, I doubt anyone would want to take the chance on moving her - she could sink in the river channel or elsewhere on the way to the reef site, which would be a very expensive accident.
Mary Murray pictures courtesy of Colin Vozeh / AvailableDark.com
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