My mother tells me that when she was a child, way back when, she can recall riding the Nantucket ferry all the way from New Bedford. The trip took four hours which seems astounding. She says her aunts, who used to take her there, would fill brown paper lunch bags with bread crumbs so they could feed the seagulls. These days, you are no longer permitted to feed the birds for obvious reasons. First of all, and this subject really deserves at least one completely separate post, seagulls are like vultures. They will attack you for your food and are not to be trusted. If you feed them, they will swarm around like scary hawks, threatening to eat the shirt off your back. Even worse, though, is the heightened risk of bird droppings falling on you for the entire two hour and fifteen minute trip across. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that the top decks on boats are sometimes called The Poop Deck?
My mom says that half the reason for taking a Nantucket ferry ride back then was to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. I suppose the same is true today, although fortunately you don’t need to take a four-hour boat trip to get there.
In any case, if you want to bring a car to Nantucket, you will need to make a reservation on one of the Steamship Authority ferries. Do it as far in advance as possible, since slots for cars fill up fast.
The good news, though, is that if you cannot get a reservation, you have the option of putting your car on standby. The Steamship Authority will drive your car onto and off of the ferry for a $50 fee. Then, you can take any of the other ferries across. Just be prepared to wait about a day for your car to arrive. If you’re taking your car over for a week or two, then chilling out on the slow boat can be relaxing. The methodical pace of the ship is lulling. If your trip isn’t going to be that long, then hopping on one of the speed boats is a good way to save time.
Although the slow boats are calmer and slower, I still prefer to have an indoor seat. You will have plenty of time during the journey to visit the many outside decks. Sitting outside can feel windy and chilly. Even the hottest, sunniest weather at the dock can turn cold and blustery once you’re out on the water.
In terms of eating, the food is snack bar-ish in quality, so it’s always a plus if you can bring your own. The main lunch item that comes to mind for me on these boats is a hotdog. Truthfully, I love hotdogs, but are you ever full after eating just one? I always want two, which feels like overkill since they are a tad gross. I really don’t want to know exactly what is in a hotdog, and am hoping my occasional consumption of them doesn’t give me cancer or any other life threatening diseases.
Next up: a discussion on Baxter’s, a great little restaurant near the Nantucket ferry in Hyannis.