New hi-speed ferry to link Block Island and Newport
Rhode Island's two most popular summer destinations will feel a whole lot closer to each other next summer, after Interstate Navigation introduces a new high-speed ferry service that will provide vacationers with a smoother ride, a quicker trip and more convenient travel times between Newport and Block Island.
The service is anticipated to begin running around July 1 of next year, says Joshua Linda, vice president of the Point Judith-based ferry company. The ride will take about an hour — half of the time it takes now. And with more trips, it’ll be possible for islanders to take a day trip to Newport, and easier for East Bay residents, as well as people from Massachusett's South Shore, to spend a day on-island.
“I think it’s a whole new market we’re going to tap,” said Linda. “People who wanted to make a day trip and go back that day had to go to Point Judith. Now they can travel in both directions to the island in one day.”
Rides between the two ports will be offered on a brand new addition to the ferry company’s fleet, an aluminum catamaran that has yet to be named, which will completely replace the current traditional ferry service aboard the Nelseco.
While the Nelseco travels at a speed of about 13 knots, resulting in a one-hour-and-50 minute trek across the seas, Linda estimates that the new vessel will be travelling at double the speed: around 27 knots. That’s similar to the Athena, the company’s other high-speed ferry, which spends summers racing between B.I. and Point Judith.
“Nelseco’s a great boat,” said Linda, “but we feel the high-speed will achieve the full potential of a trip between the two spots.”
Good news for those that get seasick: the catamaran will provide a calmer journey — a particular improvement over the Manitou, which provided the service in the early 2000s. Shorter travel times, Linda noted, also help lessen the severity of motion sickness.
“I’d be the first one on that boat,” says Kathy Szabo, executive director of the Block Island Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time. Years ago, when someone brought up high-speed services, we thought Newport would be a perfect fit. It’s such a great opportunity for everyone.”
Linda added that this plan has been in the works for several years. Interstate has had a license from the state to operate the service for years, but was waiting for the right vessel to make it possible. Based on market research, Linda believes the service will revive the Newport line, but shouldn’t adversely affect the company’s business at Point Judith.
Schedule and fares have yet to be determined, but the company says they'll be posted soon on the Block Island ferry website at blockislandferry.com.