Monday, July 18, 2011

Restless Farewell



Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross
         from shore to shore.......
The others that are to follow me, the ties between
me and them
Walt Whitman: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry 

As gentrification continues its scorched-earth, forward march,
I've often found reassurances in the rituals and structures 
around us which remain constant. No, not silly nostalgia for 
some make-believe past, but instead a tangible connection to 
those provincial traits which help define the towns and people 
of Long Island Sound.
There are the baymen of Oyster and Huntington Bays, who 
still work their shellfish beds manually. The wooden 
oysterboats of Norwalk, Stratford, and other shoreline towns. 
Then there are the lighthouses; the 18th and 19th century 
villages; and the farms of the North Fork and the
Connecticut River.
 These are not museum relics, but instead, working 
links to our past which carry on. Stripped of them, we 
inch closer to every other shoreline town which sold its 
soul to postwar Los Angelization long ago.

The Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry is believed to be the oldest
continuously operated ferry in the U.S. Established in 1655, it 
became a state operation in 1915, surviving the Great Depression,
the Floods of 1936, and several ill-conceived highway overpasses
in the 1950's and '60's. 
Just a barge pushed by a tugboat, she is highly functional, but never  
glamorous. Sadly, she met her fate with the budget-cuts this week. 

About 25 miles south of here is the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry. She is 
considered to be the second oldest continuously operated ferry in 
the U.S.. Linking a prettier, more affluent stretch, with museums
and parks overlooking the river, this boat is the more popular of 
the two. Somewhat famous, she is an appealing September/October 
fall foliage excursion, and provides an important transportation 
link along this 16 mile bridge-less stretch between Saybrook and 
East Haddam.

But pedigrees, logistics, and big-pictures don't carry much 
weight in Hartford. The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry has been 
axed along with her older sister to the north. There has been 
a lot of talk about how neither of these boats make money, 
but that argument is selective, penny-wise, and pound foolish. 
No form of transportation makes money without public subsidies. 
Highways, airports, shipping terminals, etc, all lose money 
without government assistance. 

Both ferries are scheduled to close on August 25.
I've thought about taking one final boat ride, but 
what good would it do? Maybe, instead, I'll go find 
some franchise restaurant along the CT Turnpike 
or Long Island Expressway which serves generic 
jalapeno poppers, hot-pockets, fish-a-ma-jig 
sandwiches, and booze.
I'll sit in one of those formica cubicles, partitioned 
by the glazed glass ovals depicting lighthouses, 
oystermen, church steeples, ferry boats, and 
everything  else we chose to abandon.


Chester-Hadlyme Ferry

4 comments:

Baydog said...

Don't get me started. I think you just did.

Bursledon Blogger said...

Alas an all too familiar story

http://www.ferryrestaurant.co.uk/ferry-s-history/

will said...

cumberland . . . built by blount in 1955 ?? what's to become of her?

matthew houskeeper said...

Baydog and Bursledon,
If it was going to save a bunch of money, I would understand it better. The savings however are expected to be just a few hundred thousand.

Will,
Not sure what will happen to them. I don't even think they are for-sale yet.

Sorry everyone for the strange layout on this post. Nothing was centering, and all the paragraphs were getting crunched together. Some sort of glitch.