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 foliageexcursion, 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.