Off-Roading on the Water: Greenwich Harbor

I used to hate going to the beach. I know, I know. How can you hate going to be the beach?

But I’d get bored and restless. And I have fair skin so as a kid, I was always paranoid of getting burned just because I was hot.

I finally grew out of this affliction and now you can’t get me off the beach unless you have giant spatula.

Or a few nice steaks waiting for me at home.


But I digress.

My favorite beach in Greenwich, or Connecticut for that matter, is Island Beach. I love the ferry.

View of the ferry leaving the Island

Love, love, love the ferry ride. And being on the island. It’s like getting out of town. Even though you are still in Greenwich. But you’re on an island that is technically deserted… an hour at a time.

After shuttling back and forth from Greenwich Harbor to Island beach the last few seasons, it hit me: I never even asked what horsepower this baby gets!

My long-time friend’s dad, Paul Morris, is the Captain for one of the 2 ferries–Indian Harbor–that services Island beach. On a recent ferry ride, I spent a few quality minutes badgering asking Paul some questions about the boat’s history and specs.

Indian Harbor was built in 1937. Paul mentioned that surprises a lot of people, but it’s important to note that the boat must pass extremely rigorous saftey criteria set forth- and tested by- the US Coast Guard yearly. If there are any issues that make the boats un-seaworthy, they’re repaired immediately. In short: the ferries do not operate unless it is completely safe.


When the boats are due for a dry dock exam or any kind of dry-dock repair work, they are taken to Bridgeport. Otherwise, the boats remain in the harbor during the winter, which can be painful torture when you drive by every day in the snow dreaming of summer…

The boat’s actual specs are a matter of National Safety (don’t ask) so I can’t report the specifics. However, after doing a quick Google search, it seems that the Detroit Diesel 71 series, made by General Motors starting in 1938 is a popular engine for ferries like this. There are a couple different Detroit Diesel 71 series motor configurations, naturally aspirated: inline 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 cylinder and V-types including 6, 8, 12, 16 and 24 cylinder.

Eyeballing it, the boat is around 60 feet long. The total passenger capacity, including boat crew is roughly 241. It has around 7.7 feet of water-drawn distance, so anything less than 8 feet of water is going to put those 241 passengers at a serious disadvantage.

It’s easy to think of the ferry boats as “just a ferry,” an obstacle to the final destination at the beach. To me it’s 50 tons of metal on the water, being mobilized by a combustible engine. And that really lights my fire. (Get it?)

Now that you could know more than you could ever hope to know about a town ferry, it’s time to take a ride. The ferry ride is $4, with a ticket purchased at the dock with your Greenwich Beach Pass. If you’re too lazy to renew your pass or if you are not a resident, you can purchase a day pass at the Greenwich Town Hall or the Greenwich Civic Center for $5.

Until next time, happy boating.


Categories: General
Rachael Workman

3 Responses

  1. James Fillion says:

    This looks like an excellent journey! I loved all your photos that document this trip. It makes me want to go out on a boat ride and go flounder fishing again. The closest I got to Off Road on water was right after Rocky Ridge Trucks ( lifted my f150. I took it to go surf fishing, but I parked too close to the water line, and high tide caused me to pop it in 4 wheel drive. When I first saw the title of the post, I though it was going to talk about a new type of amphibious vehicle. Luckily, I found a collection of great memories. Thanks for sharing moments of your trip, I really enjoyed the read.

  2. Jose Moledo says:

    The best getaway only minutes away!

  3. Meat. says:

    What a nice article. It must be very difficult to “dock” a car with the road constantly moving beneith your vessel. Props to the Captain!