The Ignorant Traveler   



SS Guy Molinari  

Wednesday, January 26, 2004 -- Today was the first day in service of the new Staten Island ferry, the Guy Molinari. I rode it in the evening Ė the 7:40pm boat. It is a GORGEOUS boat. Four stories high! Itís got a Hurricane deck !!  Thatís the fourth (and highest) deck. (Apparently if thereís a hurricane on a boat, you want to get to the highest point in case it sinks.) Lots and lots of outside sitting areas. What a SMOOTH ride. This is significant because the last time new regular-service boats were introduced Ė back in 1981 Ė the two new boats (the SI Newhouse and the Andy Barberi) had few outside seating areas and shook like hell, so much so your coffee would spill out of your cup as you sat there holding it. 

They had to make adjustments to their propulsion systems to smooth things out but they never got better than minor-earthquake on the richter scale. 

Outside sitting area on the Bridge deck of new SS Guy Molinari, looking out toward Brooklyn.

The new SS Guy Molinari is patterned after the old boats from the 60ís (the American Legion, JF Kennedy, and Gov Lehman). Aesthetically pleasing; lots of character. It's much bigger than the other boats (although it only sits 4,500 vs the 6,000 of the SI Newhouse and Barberi; the 60ís boats seat 3,500). According to a deckhand the Barberi, Newhouse, and the small Alice Austin and John Noble boats introduced in the nineties were all built by a company that normally makes barges and retrofitted such an architecture on the boats. Thus their long flat chassis; they look like barges that have had seats put on board. The Molinari has curves and lots of nooks and crannies in its interior.

It has elevators, and in one section is a little nautical, visitor area with glass walls that have maps of the world etched on them with blue lights emanating from the ceiling down onto a nautical-compass-looking thing in a round glass case that is supposed to generate a hologram but wasn't working yet. Elsewhere, there's a poetry-reading section (a selection of pre-recorded poems are read by various famous people over the speakers), and another what-the-heck-is-this display that is supposed to project a sonar image of the boats bottom, but also wasn't working yet.

Overall, an exhilarating first ride. I felt like I was taking an inaugural run on the Starship Enterprise. Even as we docked on the Staten Island side, gliding up to the old American Legion sitting in an adjacent slip, which was completely empty except for two officers chatting on the third deck, one of the officers got up and watched the Molinari glide in -- a scene straight out of the first Star Trek movie.

The only negative a deckhand could point out was that the Molinari class boats are more difficult to dock than the other boats because they are heavier and have more sensitive steering.

A truly amazing thing about my first ride is that you have a thousand or so people on board obviously taking their first ride on the boat as well, and they just find a seat and sit down and read, or what have you. Only a few people walking around exploring. Trust me Iím not trying to pat myself on the back here I just donít get how 97 percent of the population has not one iota of curiosity. I mean youíre on a new god damned boat. Get up and look around.  

Comments overheard last night on my second ride on the SS Guy Molinari:

Young, vagrant looking guy, outloud, as we were walking onto boat: "Well how much did this thing cost?"

Me: "30 million"

Him: "30 Million? For that much money they could have built a subway from here to there and we wouldn't have to wait this long."

Comments overheard later at the front of the boat, looking down from the hurricane deck, as we were about to dock:

Older gentlemen, speaking to a couple of other strangers: "How much did this boat cost?"

Younger guy (not me), very matter of factly: "1.6 billion dollars. It's the only boat of its kind."

Older gentlemen: "Well that ain't for us; we think it's for us but it's for the tourists..." And on went the conversation of what they could've spent the money for..


SS Guy Molinari

Two more new boats on the way! The Marchi is up in Maine making its way down; just got through the St. Lawrence River before it froze up with the recent freeze. The third boat (Spirit of America, topic for another time) is yet to be commissioned; itís out in the Wisconsin shipyards.


Fast Forward

Pictures below are of the SS John Marchi and the SS Spirit of America, after they entered service. 

SS John Marchi, while in service in June, 2006