Taking The Ferry To Shelter Island? Leave A Little Earlier Than Normal

A staffing shortage has prompted the South Ferry to advise passengers to allow extra time for passage to and from Shelter Island. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

Clifford Clark, the owner of the South Ferry, which links Shelter Island to North Haven, has advised travelers using the service to prepare for delays, especially during morning and evening rush hours and on weekends through Labor Day.

“It’s come down to staffing,” he said. “It’s a convergence of a perfect storm caused by the end of summer and a business that has to be open seven days a week.”

He said the ferry is saying goodbye to seasonal workers who are returning to high school and college, and two of his captains have had to take time off to bring their own kids back to school. Add in injuries, sickness, and the occasional breakdown of one of the ferry boats, and passengers can face the prospect of a 20- to 30-minute delay at peak hours, he said.

The ferry service will run as many as four ferries at a time, each with a captain and two deckhands. “If we have all four running, we can usually keep up with traffic,” Mr. Clark said. “I just don’t want to surprise people, who might be trying to make the Cross-Sound Ferry or get to work on time, so I’m recommending that they allow extra time.

Weekdays, the first ferry leaves North Haven at 5:40 a.m., while the first boat leaves Shelter Island at 5:50 a.m. They run until 11:45 p.m. from Shelter Island and 11:50 p.m. from North Haven. On Fridays and Saturdays, the boats run until 1:45 a.m. from the North Haven side and 1:50 a.m. from Shelter Island.

If the business was a 9-to-5 operation, Mr. Clark said he would have no problem staffing the boats, but with schedules starting at 5 a.m. and the need to provide lunch or dinner breaks for crews, things can quickly become complicated, he said.