Aboard the SS PT Barnum

As a child growing up in Manhattan one of my favorite summertime adventures was to take the Circle Line Ferry (around the island) or the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Something about being on the water… the cool breeze… and the enormity of the boats (at least to a small child) made those outings so wonderful and memorable.

We are minutes from a ferry that travels from Bridgeport, CT to Port Jefferson, Long Island (NY) and for years I have wanted to see what it was like. The opportunites never came and I decided that this was the year we would give it a try.

Yesterday morning I told Alexander that we were going to go on a boat, a big boat. He had this strange look on his face as though something just did not make sense and ran to the back door shouting “boat! boat!” The only boats he knew were the little plastic ones out back in his water table or sandbox. I think, perhaps, he must have thought it odd that I was so excited we were going to go on one of those. After all, surely he walked on them almost daily? I wondered if he wondered how we would all fit on a piece of plastic smaller than the size of my hand?

As we approach the ferry, the P. T Barnum, (everything in Bridgeport bears his name) the kids soon learn that this is no small vessel and their excitment builds as we near the ship and climb not one, but 2 flights of stairs! On top (I am not sure what they have been on that is this high off the ground) they can see the water far below and the sky for miles and miles and miles… in the distance, an hour and fifteen minutes away, they could even see Port Jefferson, LI.

As we set sail and pick up speed, the wind picks up too. The kids’ windbreakers all form mini sails up on deck. They all look as though they want to take flight at a moment’s notice. This is the feeling I remember having as a child.

Our hour passes quickly, almost too quickly it seems. And while we are eager to check out this quaint little town approaching us — this town which reminds me of Newport on a smaller scale — I am not ready to dismebark the P. T. Barnum. Just a ferry transporting passengers and cars across the sound, to us, at this moment she is as majestic as the grand oceanliners of the past. The horn blows, the bow is raised and we must all begin our descent.

We find our way to a deli to grab some sandwiches and feed the young bellies before heading off to a playground… Next time I would prefer to check out the charming little boutiques and shops that line the streets near the harbor, but this trip was for the kids, and I being the selfless, giving martyr I am, thought we should amuse the children rather than bore them… (Yeah, that’s a good one!– Next time, and there will be a next time, the trip will be about Me Me Me!)
We get word that there is potential for what could be a nasty summer storm and decide to take the 2 o’clock ferry back home. This time our vessel is not so grand. The upper deck seems quite primitive by comparisson. The kids, this time around, prefer to be inside. They all settle into a booth and work on various art projects with the paper and pens one smart mother has brought along in her Tote. This said Tote is larger than mine. My tote has three sweaters, (one for each child) a camera, a bottle of iced tea, a bottle of lemonade, a sippy cup, a bottle of pomegranate lemonade, some sunscreen, a small brush, a wallet, a cellphone, car keys, sunglasses, reading glasses, some diapers, wipes, three half eaten chicken salad sandwiches that I could not bear to throw away, and a pack of Juicy Fruit that I had to buy because Alexander had helped himself to it while we were in the checkout line at Stop&Shop last weekend.

Susan, the mother of this most enormous Tote has but one child. Surely she was confusing the Ferry with the Minnow… surely she was bracing herself that smoething terrible would happen during this three hour tour! She must have been fearful we would get lost and go adrift and rest upon some unknown, unchartered island in the Long Island Sound complete with savage head hunters! But, I wonder, did she pack the Grey Goose, or did she assume there would be plenty in the Lounge?

Susan, the Mother of this most enormous Tote was also the genius who packed the pens and papers… but really, that was a small pad and the pens were not terribly large either.

As with all good things, this too had come to come to an end. Everyone was in good spirits as we headed to our cars. Fun was had by everyone — children of all ages. We would all do it again and it is most likekly we will all do it again… My way!


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