Ferry Islander laid to rest in ship graveyard

A chance encounter turned up the sad remains of the beloved vessel in the shoals between Staten Island and New Jersey.

The ferry Islander, in her final resting place in a ship graveyard off Staten Island, New York. — Courtesy Nicole Dib/TheEscapeBoa

It’s a sight that may bring a tear to the eye of many who traveled to and from Martha’s Vineyard aboard her, but the M/V Islander has made her final voyage to a “ship graveyard” off Staten Island.

Most of the beloved vessel was cut up for scrap metal in a New Jersey salvage shipyard over the past year. But Nicole Dib, who writes a blog called The Escape Boat stumbled upon what’s left of the Islander’s hull while exploring a little known and difficult to find spot off the southwestern shore of Staten Island.

There, in the tidal flats, she found the hull of the Islander lying among dozens of other ship carcasses. The hull and the freight deck appear intact, along with a small portion of the vessel’s central support structure, but the rest of the ferry is gone. The ship’s name and hail port are still visible.

John Wagenseil, a seaman who worked aboard Steamship Authority ferries from 1975 to 1981, saw a picture of the ferry online and sent it to The Times.

The Islander crossed between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard for more than half a century. In 2007, she was replaced by the Island Home, the two vessels passing in Vineyard Haven Harbor as part of an elaborate retirement celebration.

The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, the corporation responsible for Governors Island in New York City, bought the 770-passenger ferry for $500,000. In 2009, the organization put the ferry on the Internet auction block rather than pay an estimated $6 million for needed maintenance and repairs.

Don Slovak, a farmer and trucker from the town of Valatie, N. Y., just east of the Hudson River and about 15 miles south of Albany, placed the winning bid on eBay for the Islander, but his plan to sell the ferry whole or in parts collapsed. The state would not release the ferry from the shipyard where it was moored. In the end, she was junked.