A Sad Ending for the New Bedford-Vineyard Ferry Schamonchi
Anyone who spent time along New Bedford's waterfront or perhaps took a leisurely boat ride to Martha's Vineyard in the 1980s and '90s no doubt recalls the MV Schamonchi.
My memories of those years vividly recall summer Sundays listening to Couto & Mulligan on the deck at Billy Wood's Wharf or Louie's on the Wharf and hearing the ferry Schamonchi sound its horn as it returned to port loaded with passengers from Martha's Vineyard.
Just the thought excites my senses – the warm summer breeze, the sound of the music and laughter, and the wail of the horn. Couto or Mulligan would always respond in kind, with a blast of their own to acknowledge the ship's arrival.
The Schamonchi, built in East Boothbay, Maine, in 1978, last operated as a ferry in 2003. The Vineyard Gazette reported the vessel "sat at the Steamship Authority (SSA) maintenance dock in Fairhaven for almost two years" before being sold to Caribbean Shipping & Marine Service of Flushing, New York, two years later for $105,000.
The Schamonchi arrived in New Bedford in July 1978. The Thompson family operated the ferry service until 2001 when the SSA acquired the Schamonchi and its docking rights.
Shortly afterward, New Bedford Traditional Ferry, Inc. took over the New Bedford-Martha's Vineyard route with its own vessel, the Portuguese Princess.
Caribbean Shipping & Marine Service took the 130-foot, 270-ton Schamonchi to New York, where the New York Times reported "it became an illicit party boat, the site of Burning Man-style raves, and a home to artists and other off-the-grid types," at the end of Newtown Creek, between Brooklynn and Queens.
In an August 2021 article, Times writer Kevin T. Dugan called the Schamonchi "a rusting symbol in the middle of a multimillion-dollar fight that's pitting environmentalists, artists, and heavy industry in a fight for more control of the waters."
The paper reported the Schamonchi was "very slowly sinking."
As of a year ago, the Schamonchi was still awaiting its fate.