April 17, 2006 – Leaving Gallows Bay on a recent Saturday, the Royal Miss Belmar, a three-deck ferry, glided softly across the harbor as a light mist rose from the sea and Christiansted faded out of view.
A party atmosphere enveloped the boat as youngsters talked their parents into getting soft drinks and potato chips from the snack bar on the main deck. The several dozen passengers moved freely about.
However, the whole hour and half trip to St. Thomas was not gentle. Once some distance was placed between St. Croix and the ferry, the sea became rougher. Most passengers found that moving about was not easy. They found seats and stuck to them.
According to operating manager Bob Siebengartner, this is the reason he is only selling 206 tickets out of a full capacity of 260. If all the seats were sold, some passengers would be forced to sit outside.
He says although many times passengers will enjoy a pleasant crossing sitting outside, there would be other times when passengers may not like paying $78 round-trip for that experience.
The Royal Miss Belmar, operated by the Island Lynx Ferry Company, began operating a regular schedule that includes two trips a day between St. Thomas and St. Croix at the beginning of March.
Siebengartner says much more is to come. The Royal Miss Belmar is to begin making trips to Vieques in May and Culebra soon after.
Trips to Fajardo, Puerto Rico, are also on the schedule, but this probably won't be until June, when Island Lynx plans to bring a second boat into service.
This car-carrying ferry, presently ready to go, according to Siebengartner, is sitting in Egypt. Siebengartner says that many residents are looking forward to be able to take their cars to Puerto Rico and do some shopping.
He said the only thing holding up the delivery of the second boat is that the company needs enabling legislation to be able to carry vehicles and it also needs a dock on St. Thomas where cars can be loaded. He said he has been talking to the V.I. Port Authority about using a presently unused dock near Crown Point.
Siebengartner said he hopes to have all that accomplished in June and at that time both ferries will remain in service and trips to Tortola will be added to the schedule.
Until all that is accomplished the Royal Miss Belmar will be handling the service between St. Thomas and St. Croix.
As the boat got closer to St. Thomas, the ride again became calmer and passengers began moving around on the outside decks, appreciating views of Water Island and Charlotte Amalie harbor.
While the staff is currently focused on Carnival on St. Thomas, marketing in the future will target special interest travel – trips for golf, eco-tourism, camping, racetracks and casinos.
The Royal Miss Belmar takes Tuesdays off for maintenance. Call 713-LYNX for more information.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.