Ferries find new life on Long Island Sound

The Wronowski family of New London, Conn., owns a string of marine companies along the Thames River waterfront, including Cross Sound Ferry Services and Block Island Ferry Services. When the Wronowskis go abroad to buy new ferries, they most often buy used.

Crewmember Landon Elliott wraps a mooring line around Jessica W’s capstan.

At one end of the fleet is the Cross Sound Ferry, Cape Henlopen, a 327-foot passenger and car ferry that operates across Long Island Sound. The boat began life as a landing craft and is a veteran of D-Day at Normandy.

At the other end is the Block Island Ferry Jessica W, an Incat-designed, wave-piercing catamaran built in the United Kingdom in 1990 as Condor 9 for Condor Ferries Channel Island fleet. Thirteen years later, she washed up in Mexico as Cortez, after plying the sea of the same name. That’s where John P. Wronowski and his son, Adam, found her in 2003.

Incat-designed Jessica W skims across Long Island Sound.

“It had been damaged by collision and fire in La Paz, Mexico,” said Adam. “The vessel was authorized to be U.S. flagged by the Coast Guard through the wrecked-vessel provision of the Jones Act, and we brought the vessel to Eastern Shipyard in Florida to be totally refurbished and repowered.”

In 2004, Jessica W was named for Adam’s sister, who is co-owner of the vessel. The ferry is 160 feet long, carries 530 passengers and achieves 40 knots, making the crossing from New London to Old Harbor in Block Island, R.I., in one hour and 10 minutes.

Jessica W can carry up to 530 passengers on the 30-mile crossing that takes one hour and 10 minutes.

“She now is one of the largest and fastest high-speed ferries operating in the Northeast and her wave (piercing) design and Maritime Dynamics ride-control system make for a very comfortable ride,” said Adam.

John H. Wronowski, Adam’s grandfather, worked for the Block Island ferry in the 1940s as an engineer/mechanic. “As J.H. used to say, they got so far behind paying him, it was cheaper for them to offer him a piece of the business,” remarked Adam. Eventually John H. owned the company. John P. worked in the company as a teen and founded Cross Sound Ferry in 1975.

By Professional Mariner Staff