Good ideas on the drafting table don't always succeed in actuality.
Gansett, a converted and restored 50 foot lobster hull, plied the waters last summer between the harbors of Stonington and Watch Hill. Part-ferry service and part-tour guide, the 25 minute narrated trips served up such local favorites as Narragansett Beer and Del's Lemonade, while transporting passengers to-and-from Dodsons Boatyard and the Watch Hill Docks.
Upon first learning of this last year, I thought it was a wonderful idea. Though separated by just three miles of water, a trip by land between the two villages is nearly 12 miles, and includes the added hassles of beach traffic and parking. Arriving by car, day trippers and weekenders were likely to stay put.
Also, many travelling yachtsmen with a limited schedule visit one of the harbors, but rarely the two; preferring not to waste a day of travel on another nearby port. The Gansett provided the opportunity to visit both towns, regardless of where you dropped anchor.
So, I was saddened last week when I learned the Gansett has moved her operations back to Newport, Rhode Island for 2011. Disappointed, but not entirely surprised. With tickets priced at $25, the fares were too expensive for a short ferry ride.*
As a tour boat, the trip seemed too limited in scope to draw mass appeal. While Gansett was the only excursion boat serving Watch Hill and Stonington, nearby Mystic offers a slew of choices ranging from schooners to 19th-century steamboats. It is a competitive field.
Hopefully the waters of Newport provide a more lucrative home for Gansett this season. She is a pretty boat which has been meticulously restored, and I can't help but think she'll strike gold somewhere.
As for a ferry serving Watch Hill and Stonington....I still think it's a good idea...at least on paper!
New London Day: New Ferry Service (June 2010)
Grab A Gansett: Vintage Beer Ads
*Since each excursion/ferry boat offers something unique, prices alone are not always a fair comparison. Still, I thought they were worth noting. A one-hour tour of the Thimble Islands is priced at $10; a round-trip ticket on the North Ferry, connecting Shelter Island with Greenport costs $8; and a 2.5-hour sail on the schooner Argia costs $42. Of course, none of these boats serve Narragansett Beer.