Yankee Ferry Dandy

If you’re suffering from a wee bit of nausea and vertigo, there are two activities you should probably avoid.  The first?  Boats.  Especially if they are on the Hudson river on a windy day.  The second?  The upper decks of Yankee Stadium.

Any guesses as to how I spent the last two days?

No, I did not sign up for Trapeze School.  Yet.  (Or ever.  That shit looks scary.)

But I have to tell you about the magical boat I toured on Sunday.  She’s named the Yankee Ferry and she’s just plain magical.

Yankee in Her Heyday

She’s docked on the Hudson River, a mere four blocks from my apartment.  I remember when they first towed her to town.  (She didn’t run at the time.)  I’d sit out on the pier with my thermos full of wine and wonder what she was all about.  Another Hudson River tour boat?  An extension of the museum, maybe?  An escape plan for an impending zombie apocalypse?

Then deck furniture appeared.  And planters.  And a laundry line.  People were LIVING on the boat.  In the Hudson frickin’ River!  How bad ass is that?

It’s owned by a quirky and beautiful artist couple (of course) and is an absolute delight to the eyes.  I’d attended an open house once before this weekend, but that had focused on the couple’s artistic works (which are absolutely stunning).  The tour this weekend was focused on the boat’s history.

Built in 1907, she was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.  She was originally built as a luxury day-cruise vessel, but then went on to serve in both the World Wars, amongst many other things.  When she retired in 1987, she was the longest continually running ferry in the United States.

She’s the last surviving Ellis Island ferry.  When the ocean liners would near the coast, the Yankee Ferry would sail out past the harbor to meet them.  There, still at sea, the steward passengers (read lower class) would board the Yankee who would transport them directly to Ellis Island for processing.

Richard, one of the owners, told us a story of how they had one day noticed two older women strolling along the pier and pointing at the Yankee.  When he emerged onto the deck to investigate, he heard the women arguing.  (Pardon me while I take a literary license here, but this is the gist of the conversation.)

“I know that’s the boat that brought me to this country,” said the older, frailer woman.

“Mother, I don’t think that craft is exactly sea worthy,” replied her companion.

“That’s it.  I’m absolutely certain.”

Richard called out to them, asking if he could be of any help.

“My mother believes this is the boat that brought her to America,” answered the daughter.  “But she’s never mentioned the Yankee Ferry before.”

“She did serve at Ellis Island,” Richard said.  “But then she was called the Machigonne.”

“I knew it was her,” sighed the old lady.  “I’d watch for her through the windows of the building, knowing that if I could just get back on that boat, I’d see New York.  Everything would be alright.”

She’d come over at age thirteen and truly believed the streets of Manhattan were paved with gold.  Imagine how hopeful and magical that boat must have seemed.  I would have named her the S.S. Apocalypse (after my unicorn, of course).

It always makes my heart a little tight when I imagine how much hope an inanimate object can represent.  Like a bag of chemo or an engagement ring.  Then again, I still have that same physical tug on my heart each time I see the Liberty Bitch in all her shining copper glory.  Every single time.  And I see her quite a bit.

Whoa, hey!  Someone seems to be feeling a little somber today, eh?  I hate it when that shit sneaks up on you.

Don’t panic, I managed to still snag a few shots of the beautiful living quarters and their quirky and inventive decorating style.  Plus now I have photographic proof it can work next time Rocco tries to tell me I’m mixing too many colors and patterns.  Also, HGTV apparently did a piece on the Yankee Ferry as an extreme home a few years back.  You can watch that video clip here, if you’re interested.  Plus you get to see the adorable couple that lives there.  (Victoria has a dress made completely from bubble wrap!)

Just in case that wasn’t enough.  You can see all my photos from the tour here.  Be warned though, photography is not my thing.


  1. DUDE. so COOL! i can’t believe i’ve never heard of the Yankee Ferry and i’m only a couple miles south of you. is that a costume closet?!!! i LOVE the eclectic decor. these are totally my kind of people.

    1. It IS a costume closet. They make the costumes together. Apparently, one Halloween they were headed to a Masquerade Ball. Victoria made this giant round costume and Richard asked her what she was supposed to be. “Why I’m the ball of course,” she replied. Seriously. I want to be their new best friend.

  2. This does give a new meaning to the phrase “Hope floats” doesn’t it? Hope for those coming into America and also hope now for those who dream of being able to live so “differently” as the M-C’s.

    Watched the vid while sitting in my cubicle eating lunch over my keyboard. *sigh* So did you get to have a meal at the dining room? Sitting in the swinging chair? Amazing!

    1. It’s like a magical tiny world encapsulated in a white ferry package floating on the river. “Hope Floats” is the perfect description.

      Hopefully I can woo them into being my newest dearest friends and I can serenade them with Herbert for a chance to witness a dinner in that room.

  3. you can tell they are artists. It doesn’t match, but it “goes”. “go’s”??? Whatev. In Portland, Me, there used to be a restaurant called Pizza and Cheesecake. And that is all they sold. I think. That is all I ever had, anyway. Nachos would have been a good addition to the menu, though. I love what you said about inanimate things making your heart tight. The same thing happens to me.

  4. Inanimate objects! Oh hell. I am having one of those weeks, maybe it’s been two. Can’t keep up. If you are ever in Louisville, I will take you for a private tour of the Belle of Louisville. She is a beautiful old riverboat. OMJ, sometimes on a bad day I just walk down there and chat with the captain and sit there, surrounded in the old southern charm.

    Also, these people are MAGICAL! I need magical. And now I am going to make a cheesecake.

  5. So you’re going to become best friends with these people so when I come to visit you I get to hang out on the boat and stare at that rainbow quilt thing for a really uncomfortably long time, right?

    1. Actually, they have these internship-like things where people stay on the boat and help with the maintenance. If I didn’t get so sea sick, I’d consider letting Rocco deal with the apartment all by himself for a few months.

  6. Love this boat/house/piece of floating history! Love all the colors put together and the red sink in the kitchen! I do, however, need a picture of the bubble wrap dress!

    And how great is that story about the woman who’s (or is it whose?) last steps on the Yankee Ferry wer also her first steps on American soil? Fantastic story!

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