Transport yourself out of lockdown with this ferry story …
By MT Rainey
It occurs to me that many places I love are a short ferry ride away, and that’s probably no coincidence.
All that clanging, shouting, lifting, chugging, plying, passing, waving, flashing, swooshing, slowing, dropping, reaching, transports me. All that moving blue.
The Shelter Island ferry looms large and loud. Both the North and the South. On the South Ferry it feels like an escape, from the pretentious clamour of the Hamptons. From the North Ferry it’s a homecoming, to that beautiful small town of Shelter Island Heights, where we briefly but frequently like to think we live.
The ferry from San Francisco to Tiburon, which emerges through the thickest fog permanently sunlit, rising gently, prosperously, from a dappled shore of seafood restaurants on creaky piers. Impossibly idyllic, and such a small town to contain all of the other half who live there.
I remember too the Chappaquiddick ferry, loaded with bikes and heavy with significance; the Catalina ferry from San Pedro (the un LA) to Avalon – a longer trip and with its 1930’s vibe perhaps the furthest back in time.
The ferry from Long Island to Fire Island, to duckboards, beaches, food and friends.
I remember too a short car ferry booming across the Puget sound into a blinding Seattle sunset complicated by myriad clouds, taking me to a lost weekend with a lost boy somewhere whose name I’ve also now misplaced. (The place not the boy).
The ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong at night. An otherworldly worldliness.
The Manly ferry, swooshing from Circular Quay past the Sydney Opera House to that brash, beachy and, yes, boysy world of the lucky suburbs.
I remember a ferry from the already blessed Cote D’Azur to the miraculously picturesque Porquerolles on a hot summer day.
The Greek ferries all blur into distant memory now. Harsh, inhospitable floating decks carpeted by the multi-coloured rucksacks of young Europeans, they dispersed us noisy hordes into harmless trickles of happy travellers among Greece’s thousand islands, to the whitest white and the bluest blue any of us had ever seen. Mostly I remember Hydra.
The ferry from Campbeltown to Gigha; from Port Appin to Lismore; from Oban to Kerrera; from Lochaline to Fishnish. The Corran Ferry from Fort William to the remote reaches of Morvern on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. That wee ferry on the Lake of Menteith to Inchmahome island and priory. There was a ferry to Inchmurrin island on Loch Lomond, verboten to us teenagers because of its “scandalous” nudist colony. Is it still there? The Maid of the Loch doesn’t count. She’s a pleasure cruiser. That’s the boat you came in on.
Whenever I can these days I get on the chain ferry from Sandbanks to Studland into the huge national park of the Purbecks and the Jurassic Coast. Bike is best. After a few minutes your view and your mood is transported. Your fellow passengers disappear. Most stick to the coast, the cliffs and the beach but inland is a glorious wild wilderness of tracks, paths, quiet roads, marshes, hills, fields, forests, farms and glistening water at every turn.
A short ferry ride is the ultimate form of travel. Your destination is visible and you know you’ll reach it. You don’t look back at where you’ve come from but you know it’s there and you’re comforted that you can return. Miles don’t matter. The distance is in the mind. So near, and yet so far.
Catch your ferry here from Erskine as was to Eriskay, Port Askaig, Porquerolles, Ardnamurchan, Arranmore and even the old Granny Kempock from Helensburgh to Gourock, Balmaha on Loch Lomond and Inchmahome on the Lake of Menteith and Cleggan to Inishbofin in Connemara, with skipper Pat Concannon on the bridge and postie Paddy Holleran on the pier. Pictures by MT Rainey and Bill Heaney
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