(Mostly) Fictional Ferries

I receive an inordinate amount of visitor traffic on my Ferry Maps of the World site. Very few of those hits come from 12MC readers. It’s basically a lot of one-and-done landings from people who never return to the website ever again. Google decided it didn’t like me about a year ago or I was SEO’ed into irrelevance so the traffic has dropped considerably, however, it still doubles or triples the volume of what I see on Twelve Mile Circle on any given day.

The 12MC audience doesn’t have a reason to know or care about this curious circumstance other than it offers a fascinating insight into the random travel thoughts of the larger world. The site answers most visitor questions with ease. It doesn’t deal well with certain esoteric queries. I’ve observed and compiled a list of frequently requested "wishful thinking" ferry lines that do not exist. Some of them have a grain of truth behind them while others are rather more fanciful. The common denominator is that many people believe these routes exist, or perhaps want to hope that they exist, and seek to know how to take advantage of them.

Ferry lines are expensive. I don’t suggest that any of these fictional lines might ever be feasible financially or geographically. My point is that I wish they existed because they sound interesting and because they’d have an immediate set of customers based upon my observation of search patterns.

Galveston – New Orleans Line

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A Galveston, Texas to New Orleans, Louisiana ferry has never existed to my knowledge. Nonetheless, this is by far the most commonly requested fictional route. I’ve observed a lot of chatter about the Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry over the years. It offers a convenient means to bypass Houston traffic for those living on the southern side of the city who wish to travel onward to Interstate 10, heading to New Orleans or beyond. However, the queries I’ve seen are something different. Lots of people seem to want to avoid I-10 altogether by hugging the Gulf of Mexico shoreline in a boat for hundreds of miles.

It could be done. Ships navigate the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River all of the time. Personal watercraft also Cruise the Intracostal Waterway from Galveston to New Orleans albeit with some inconveniences:

At the moment there are no marinas along the 350-mile stretch — all the recreational boating facilities that once existed were wiped out by the series of powerful hurricanes (Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike) that have battered the area. What’s more, there are plenty of obstacles in these waters, including commercial shipping traffic, barges, and off-shore oil-field equipment.

Traffic will need to hit a much higher degree of gridlock I believe, before it reaches sufficient critical mass to justify a ferry.

New Orleans – Key West Line

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A ferry line between New Orleans, Louisiana and Key West, Florida comes up less frequently than the Galveston route, although it still makes regular appearances. This one also arrives with a number of variations. Sometimes the embarkation point is farther east than New Orleans while debarkation points range along the entire length of Florida’s Gulf Coast, with Key West the logical extreme.

This one has a grain of truth. Ferry service exists from Fort Myers Beach and San Marco Island to Key West on Key West Express. The route eliminates a 300 mile drive including the entire Overseas Highway that hops atop the Keys (map). That’s often touted as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. However, from repeated experience, I can say with all honesty that it can also be a traffic-clogged multi-hour nightmare. The Overseas Highway provides more than abundant incentive to justify a ferry.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could string Galveston to New Orleans to Key West together into a single line, and cruise the entire northern arc of the Gulf of Mexico? Yes, it would. It’s also never going to happen.

Trans-Caribbean Route

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I simply love the thought of a Trans-Caribbean Route. Imagine rolling onto a ferry and skipping from island-to-island, driving off at the paradise of your choice, dawdling as long as you liked before moving on, and having your own automobile with you the whole time. That would be wonderful. It would also be wishful thinking.

The fictional routes I’ve observe tend to vary. Often they start at Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands although more ambitious fantasies begin all the way back in Florida and island-hop the entire length of the eastern Caribbean to South America.

Ferry service in the Caribbean tends to be spotty and subject to frequent change. It’s hard to maintain up-to-date maps of what even exists at any given time. It’s not practical to cobble together a trans-Caribbean route, much less with an automobile. Ferry boats can’t replicate cruise ships in these waters.

Chesapeake Bay Route

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Chesapeake Bay car ferries once existed as I’ve noted previously. They became obsolete overnight due to the bridges — amazing engineering marvels really — that were strung across the mouth of the bay and the midpoint. That doesn’t stop people from searching for those old ferry lines, whether from a feeling of nostalgia or an ancient lingering memory. I receive lots of hopeful visitors hitting the site for that purpose.

One can still cross the Chesapeake Bay by ferry today, by sailing from the western to eastern shores via Smith Island in Maryland or Tangier Island in Virginia. These are passenger-only routes (no automobiles) and they are not particularly efficient either, but it’s possible to cross the bay by ferry. I categorize the Chesapeake Bay Route within the "grain of truth" category.

Great Lakes International

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Lots of people seem to want to cross between Canada and the United States by ferry. This has much more than a grain of truth. It happens all the time. One can cross from numerous places in British Columbia and Washington in the Pacific Northwest. There are also several ferry crossings between southwestern Ontario and Michigan’s lower peninsula, even for trucks! That’s not what my searchers seemed to want, though. They were seeking routes across the width of the Great Lakes.

And why not? A couple of different ferry lines cross Lake Michigan within the boundaries of the United States (my experience, for example). Also there was a fast ferry that ran across Lake Ontario between Toronto, ON and Rochester, NY. It lasted only three years (2004-2006) before succumbing to financial difficulties. Additionally one can hop across the western side of Lake Erie via Pelee Island, ON (map) and take an automobile.

I’m not sure it’s feasible as a shortcut or as a time-saver, which is what people seem to want, however the service does exist for one of the four Great Lakes shared by Canada and the United States. The other three? Car ferries remain fictional for now.

The East Coaster

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Wow. This one is really ambitious. I’m not sure if people seek this alternative because traffic on Interstate 95 is so awful or because they are geographically challenged, or both. The route almost always extends from some point in New York (often Long Island) to a point in South Florida, without any intermediate stops. This wouldn’t be as much a ferry as a voyage. I can’t discount the logic of attempting to avoid the monstrosity that’s known as Interstate 95; I hate it as much as anyone. Nonetheless this represents exterme wishful thinking.

4 Replies to “(Mostly) Fictional Ferries”

  1. I can’t imagine the logistical nightmare of a trans-Caribbean car ferry, but I would LOVE to see it! Surely some business magnate has the cojones to give it a shot?

    One ferry that’s been sorely missed is one connecting Maine with Nova Scotia. It operated as recently as 3-4 years ago. Attempts to revive the service keep popping up here and there (latest I’ve seen: http://www.workingwaterfront.com/articles/Nova-Scotia-rejects-proposals-for-reviving-Maine-ferry-service/15246). It’s probably more important for the people in Western Nova Scotia, who have to opt for either a long drive or expensive flight to get into the U.S., despite being much closer via water.

  2. There is still talk about a ferry service from Cleveland OH to Port Stanley ON, so the possibility remains. I keep myself apprised about this link, because if it were even enacted, I’d try to get there as soon as possible to take it before it would disappear, in order to cross the line between Cuyahoga County and Ontario. Still, most of the talk about it is from early last year.


    I’m glad I was able to take that catamaran ferry from Bar Harbor ME to Yarmouth NS before its demise. I’m sorry I missed the ferries connecting the counties of Hawai’i before the service was interrupted.

  3. Sometimes making the drive to Milwaukee from the southeast, we often wish for a ferry from Gary, IN to Milwaukee to avoid the Chicago traffic nightmare!

  4. When on a couple of job assignments in Connecticut last fall I would sometimes take the (non-fictional) Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferry in the afternoons. It didn’t necessarily save much time over driving, that really depended on the time of day I finished work, but it was far less stressful. The Connecticut worksites (West Haven and then North Haven) were 15 or 25 miles respectively from the Bridgeport terminal, and I live 10 miles south of the Port Jefferson terminal. Compare that to the 115 or 120 miles it took to drive via the Throgs Neck Bridge. The ferry’s big disadvantage was the cost, $54 each way for a car and driver. While my company would reimburse me, as they did for driving, that was still a lot of money to shell out.

    Some Long Island residents who work in the Bridgeport or New Haven areas commute via the ferry every day, in most cases riding the ferry as foot passengers and keeping an older car in one of the parking garages near the Bridgeport terminal. I haven’t heard of anyone doing this in reverse, probably because it might not be feasible to find overnight parking in Port Jefferson.

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