It’s been over a hundred years since a passenger ferry connected Tuckerton and Beach Haven, but thanks to a partnership between municipalities and the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, a free service is set to begin on Aug. 5.
Tuckerton Seaport trustee Paul Hart said a 25-seat pontoon boat, named the Pohatcong II, is being built in Florida and will bring people from Beach Haven across the bay to visit the Seaport and historic Tuckerton and give Tuckerton residents a way to get to the beach without fighting the traffic. “We also hope it will give parents a break who have to drive their teens back and forth to jobs on the Island,” said Hart on Saturday.
Last year, a ferry service was operational during a few special festival days at the Seaport as a trial run. It was successful and the Seaport was able to get a loan from an anonymous Seaport supporter to start the boat-building process.
“It has V-shaped pontoons so it will handle better in the wind,” said Hart of the new vessel under construction. To start, the ferry service will run Sunday, Monday and Tuesdays beginning Aug. 5. It will depart the Seaport at 8 and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. with trips from Beach Haven’s Taylor Avenue public docks leaving at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. The trip in good weather takes about an hour and a half. “And it’s first come, first served,” Hart noted.
This year the Chowderfest and the Ocean County Decoy and Gunning Show are being held on the same weekend, Sept. 29 and 30, and ferry service will run those two days.
There is no fee to ride the ferry for this season.
Beach Haven Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis is enthusiastic about this year’s ferry service and the potential for expanded service in the future.
“I’m excited, it’s great and I’m happy we’re doing it,” said Davis on Monday. “I think it’s going to be a big success for Tuckerton and Beach Haven, far beyond this trial period. “It’s an opportunity for people to experience and learn about the bay and nature. The trip up the Tuckerton Creek, or ‘crik,’ will be very educational. Tuckerton has such a rich history and was an early port of entry for the United States.”
Davis noted that visitors to the Island are often looking for new venues to explore and the Tuckerton Seaport is the place to learn about the bay history of oystering, clamming, fishing, duck hunting and boating. “It’s a great way to introduce people to the Seaport and what it stands for. And the trip across the bay is beautiful, with birds like ospreys nesting, old hunting cabins, the fish factory and clam and oyster beds. There’s a lot of history between Tuckerton and Beach Haven,” said Davis.
Tuckerton and Beach Haven are across the bay from each other and long ago, mainlanders would sail across to Tucker’s Island and the southern end of Long Beach Island for a quiet day at the ocean.
Then in 1872, when the Tuckerton Railroad was built, travelers to the beach would travel to Tuckerton by railroad and take a steam-driven paddleboat, the Pohatcong, from Edge Cove to Beach Haven’s Dock Street and from there by horse-drawn trolley to Bond’s Long Beach House in Holgate. The resort of Beach Haven was established by the Tuckerton and Long Beach Island Improvement Co. Its principals were Archelous Pharo of Tuckerton, who owned most of the land in Beach Haven plus the Tuckerton Railroad and Steamship Co., and Charles Parry of Philadelphia, who started the Baldwin Locomotive works and the Parry Hotel.
For 12 years, the steamship from Tuckerton’s Edge Cove was the quickest way to get to Beach Haven. Then in 1886 the railroad connected Beach Haven to the mainland over a bridge connected to Stafford, but steamship service aboard a smaller boat, the Haven Belle, continued for 15 more years.
Not since 1901 has a passenger ferry connected the two communities.
Davis noted there are still a few problems with reliable boat traffic across the bay: weather and scheduling. “We have to take care of the people who might not want to travel or are afraid to travel in bad weather. We do have Uber and we are trying to, hopefully, coordinate a shuttle bus on and off the Island.
“There are a few things up in the air, but hopefully in time we will make it all happen.”
She added, “I’m also hoping it might be a way to help employers get their employees from the mainland. It’s too expensive to live on the Island and having quick transportation to and from might help. I’m hoping we can find grant money to support that.”
Lori Pepenella, chief executive officer of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, said it was the chamber’s “Downtown Driven Program and Water Ferry Committee” with representatives of Beach Haven, Tuckerton, Tuckerton Seaport and Baymen’s Museum, and the Ocean County Planning Department that made the dream of a passenger ferry a reality.
“The effort began when the Southern Ocean Chamber established a Regional Economic Development Advisory Board in honor of their 100th anniversary in 2014. It led to the Vision 2020 strategic plan that created programs to advance and sustain the business community in the 21st century. The Southern Ocean Chamber Downtown Driven program was one of the priorities resulting from that plan. Both Tuckerton and Beach Haven boroughs passed resolutions to work with the chamber that established best practices and innovation to boost the local economy and tourism.
“After meeting with both borough Economic Development Committees in 2017, it was clear that the chamber needed to organize a dedicated committee involving key stakeholders to make the ferry conversation a reality. Meeting monthly at the chamber office in Ship Bottom the committee reviewed research, collaborated on grant proposals and discussed budget options that would allow sustainable ferry service connecting the two boroughs. The committee is striving to generate operational support that will allow future service to assist with commutation to and from Long Beach Island for seasonal staffing in peak summer months.”
“The Downtown Driven Water Ferry committee has dedicated resources to keep the Tuckerton Seaport/Beach Haven Water Ferry powered by the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce ferry service afloat, which was helpful to the Tuckerton Seaport to secure funding to purchase the pontoon boat.”
The committee voted to name the boat the Pohatcong II, a nod to the original Pohatcong operating about 150 years ago. The committee and community leaders will host an inaugural sail when the boat arrives at the Seaport later this summer.