Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Ferry: More Punch, Less Crunch

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Ferry: More Punch, Less Crunch

Article excerpt

MAYPORT -- That familiar jolt felt by St. Johns River ferry

passengers as the boat slams into wooden fenders before docking

will soon be gone.

Captain Scott Fletcher, piloting Jacksonville's newest ferry,

demonstrated several smooth landings Tuesday afternoon during

training exercises aboard the state-of-the-art Jean Ribault.

The double-ended, $3.7 million boat, scheduled to begin carrying

passengers next month, is faster and more maneuverable than its

more-than-40-year-old counterparts. It can turn on a dime, so to

speak, pinwheel fashion. The rudders and engines are larger and

operate independently, which allows thrust in equal or opposite

directions.

"It gives you constant control of the vessel. You're able to

maintain your position," said Port Captain Ray Rocher, who was

training Fletcher to pilot the new craft this week. "With the

other boats, you have to fall with the tides."

That falling with the tides is what created the solid crunch at

the docks, as the old ferries make landfall. It was absent with

the Jean Ribault, which seemed suspended at a fixed point as the

outgoing tide rushed by.

"Look at that power," marveled engineer Chris LeDew, as the

Ribault pulled away from the dock with hardly a shudder. The

river churned in the wake of the 168-foot vessel's

diesel-powered engines.

Instead of two wheelhouses, one at either end of an island

running down the center of the deck, the new ferry has an

elevated pilot houses mounted on a bridge above the center of

the boat. It has two sets of control panels which allows the

captain to stay in one place and drive in either direction, said

LeDew, project engineer for the state Department of

Transportation, which commissioned Atlantic Marine of

Jacksonville to build the ferry. …

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