June 20, 2019

On Fire Island Ferries, Aging Mariners Seek Successors

Mr. Molnar said he hoped to work summers as a captain but planned on attending college and pursuing a more lucrative career.

Many of the ferry company workers followed a family path.

Don Guinta, 60, the company’s freight manager, brought his daughter Kristen Chance, 27, into the business. She’s eight months pregnant, but recently helped him log in a mountain of packages being sent over to Fire Island, a task he called “organized chaos.”

Favorite parcels included food sent from Dean Deluca, Zabar’s, Citarella and other Manhattan markets, he said, standing next to a pile of Amazon deliveries, a surfboard and a tall bass fiddle.

The traditional Sunday-morning freight boat is known as the “bagel boat,” for its principal cargo.

Another tradition is spotting celebrities who use the ferries, often disguised by hats and sunglasses. The list of passengers with boldfaced names includes the actors Tina Fey, John C. Reilly and Katie Holmes.

“Every personality in the world comes through these boats,” said Captain Villing, as he steered the 85-foot Belle up the West Channel toward Fair Harbor.

He recalled how the actor Tony Randall used to buy candy for groups of local children in Seaview, and how the comedian Mel Brooks and his wife, Anne Bancroft, rode the ferry to their house in Lonelyville. “She kept a low profile but you always knew when Mel was on the boat because he was always doing his comedy,” Captain Villing said as he pulled into Fair Harbor and helped his crew unload luggage.

He got a welcoming hug from Fred Fahrbach, 77, who has a summer home nearby and who said of Captain Villing: “I don’t think the ferry would run without him.” Then Captain Villing headed for the mainland, with Fire Island astern.

“It’s been a good living,” he said, adding that he hoped to remain working as a summertime captain. “As long as they got a space for me, I’ll be here.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/02/nyregion/fire-island-ferry-captain-retirement.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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