Matt Sherman, owner of Davis Park Ferry Co. Inc. with his brother “Corky,” is set to start service next week. He’s standing in front of the Marquette.


No deer on the ferry, just passengers who are dear


Any unusual passengers on the Davis Park Ferry, like the deer that scampered onto Shelter Island’s South Ferry one time? Matt Sherman was asked. 

(A deer — no one knows if it was the same one, but it could have been — was sighted on a later ferry-crossing, swimming back to Sag Harbor.)

Sherman, owner of Davis Park Ferry Co. Inc. with his brother “Corky,” laughed. 

“No, nothing like that,” he said of any anecdotes. “It’s mostly weekly rentals on Davis Park and what we see are families with kids that are so excited to be going over on a vacation. So this is the first thing they see on their trip. It’s us. And we try to make the experience good.”

No Bambi. Just smiles and maybe a joke or two. 

That ritual will start soon. Ferry service begins next week, March 18, over Saturday and Sunday, three round-trips on each day to Davis Park on the Nicolet and Marquette. Weekday service is targeted for April 15. Engine repair, painting and other maintenance work was conducted in-house over the winter season, mostly by staff in a boatyard up the river. 

Patchogue Village attorney Brian Egan is a Davis Park regular on weekends with his wife Jennine and their two canines. “Matt Sherman is always kind to the passengers, in particular the less-than-buoyant bulldog passengers,” he said. The ferry has represented a historic lifeline between beach homeowners and the mainland, through good weather and squalls, he explained, noting the generations of local students trained by the Shermans who worked summers keeping the boats running.

Watch Hill service is still suspended. “They’re doing very well,” said Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Chris Soller. “Their contract allows them to go until September, but their goal is to get it finished as soon as they can and move on.”

As for Davis Park’s marina, leased to Fire Island Concessions, Sherman said the mild winter hasn’t blasted it. “We’re very fortunate,” he said. “Very little damage has been done with storms at the beach, so we’re a little ahead here.”

Soller agreed. “The recent nor’easter impacted the beach with erosion and flooding on the bayside, but nothing damaging,” he said. 

There are five ferries that maneuver out of Brookhaven Town-owned Sandspit Marina in the height of the season; Nicolet and Marquette hold 150 passengers each and the others can each accomodate 250.

“During Memorial to Labor days, we run nine ferries daily, 12 on the weekends just to Davis Park,” he said of the 20-minute ride. There are 35 staffers that help passengers move along and 12 captains.

The company started in 1948, Sherman said, with his father and his dad’s brother-in-law. “They started it after the war,” Sherman said. “I have the original schedule.” Originally, they had two small ferries that took 60 passengers each.

Sherman and Corky started helping out when they were 14.

“At that age, what do you know?” he said. “We enjoyed it and it was fun. Corky was 7 years older and we both started by sweeping the boats and counting passengers.”