This month signals the debut of an exciting addition to the Jamestown Newport Ferry fleet: Coastal Queen, a newly refurbished 140-passenger vessel – with quite the backstory.
Bill Munger – CMM, Founder, and President of Conanicut Marine Services Inc. (CMS) – had been looking for a solution to the growing water transportation needs of the ferry system, which his company operates. It was a tall order; the boat needed to not only serve as a passenger ferry, but be used as a charter and for weddings, plus accessible to public landing sites and accommodate wheelchairs and bikes.
Enter Viking Queen, which had sailed Newport Harbor and lower Narragansett Bay since the ‘70s, carried spectators during America’s Cup Races in the ‘80s, changed ownership in 2010 and journeyed to New York, met a watery demise during Hurricane Sandy, and then was towed up the Hudson, destined for a scrap pile.
Bill spotted the derelict ship on his search for a larger vessel and saw its potential. She had a shallow draft to dock at Rose Island Lighthouse, a stop on the popular ferry route, and a low freeboard for wheelchair boarding without extensive ramp systems. However, it wasn’t going to be an easy project.
After being towed to Wickford in 2016, the Queen underwent a makeover. The original machinery was removed and house structure redesigned, though Naval Architects Chris Melo and Ezra Smith kept most of its vintage 1900s look. North Kingstown’s Coastal Iron Works replaced the hull shell plating, while Luther’s Welding of Bristol constructed new fuel, water, and waste tanks. Then, the crowning jewel: a new name.
“In addition to the current hop-on hop-off ferry service that began back in 1995 – connecting Jamestown Village, Rose Island Lighthouse, Fort Adams State Park and two stops in downtown Newport – the new Coastal Queen will be offering reserved departures on a Scenic Bay Cruise run between 1 East Ferry Wharf in Jamestown and Perrotti Park,” says the CMS team. These scenic cruises will allow off-boarding for a quick lunch or shopping excursion into Newport or Jamestown, plus an on-board cash bar, and, of course, those unbeatable views of the bay.
Susan Jamison, who assists with marketing efforts, gushes, “I know the CMS folks are very excited to launch this larger ferry this summer.” But it’ll be so much more than just a new boat: After many years, Coastal Queen will finally return to home waters.