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Floridians couldn’t believe their eyes when a Staten Island Ferry was spotted off their shores. Was it lost? Was it snowbirding? Maybe taking the Orange State title a little too literally?

The SS Sandy Ground being launched in Florida. Photo: Eastern Shipbuilding Group

The real reason for the ferry’s detour is slightly less cheeky — several new SI Ferry ships, built in Port St Joe, Florida by the Eastern Shipbuilding Group, were headed out on their inaugural sail up to New York before undergoing final preparation for service. The photographed boat was one of several new vessels constructed to better handle changing weather conditions and outfitted to be used if needed in an emergency as evacuation vessels. 

It’s been an eventful year for the Staten Island Ferry — long known for its free ride from St George, SI, to the Financial District, Manhattan. In the summer, we revealed it had acquired a competitor and even took a ride. The new NYC Ferry from St George not only disembarks at Battery Park City but continues up the Hudson River to Pier 79, making morning commutes one step shorter for many Midtown workers. 

The new NYC Ferry route.

Perhaps exploring its competitive options, the Staten Island Ferry has also occasionally been spotted lurking on the Hudson River. Recently, however, the easily recognizable large orange vessel caused quite a stir in Florida. 

The Staten Island Ferry lost on the Hudson River. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Local news outlets were quick to document the ferry’s stop at Port Canaveral, where it stood out among the many mega-sized cruise ships that dock there daily. 

Several Redditors jumped at the chance to riff on the quintessentially New York boat appearing in Florida with a post entitled, “I think the new ferry is lost”. “The snowbirds just got here!” mused one user, while another quipped, “Go home Staten Island Ferry, you’re drunk.”

The Staten Island Ferry in warmer climes. Photo: Reddit

The new ships are modeled after the John F Kennedy ferries, popular among passengers because of their abundant outdoor decks and with a reputation for being mechanically reliable for operators.

The boat spotted in the sunshine is named the SS Sandy Ground, in tribute to the oldest continually inhabited free Black settlement in the United States, located in Rossville, Staten Island. Eastern Shipbuilding Group’s president Joey D’Isernia commented, “I am pleased to announce the newest Staten Island Ferry Sandy Ground is being delivered to New York City. This vessel honors our nation’s African-American heritage and will tell the story of the landmark Sandy Ground community.” 

Two more new ships have been ordered from Florida — the SS Michael H Ollis has already arrived, with the SS Dorothy Day still in construction and delivery expected in 2022. There was no confirmation, however, as to whether the new ships would arrive from the Sunshine State with retirees in tow. 

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