Shelter Island is a quiet retreat in the off-season and a vibrant, bustling destination for tourism during the summer. And visitors coming from the Hamptons or headed to the South Fork really have just one way of getting on and off the island — the South Ferry.
Nicholas Morehead, chief operations officer for the South Ferry Company, describes the high season as an exciting and challenging time. He enjoys the variety of tasks that his role includes.
“This is a small family business.” Morehead said. “It has been in the Clark family for a few hundred years and is an amazing family legacy and story.”
Q: What is your role at South Ferry?
A: My title is chief operations officer. That role brings with it a little bit of everything. My role is to help keep the business running. I work with the owners on everything from scheduling to staffing, advertising, charities and I even have my captain’s license. I work on the boats from time to time. I wear many hats and help out in all aspects.
Q: Where do you reside?
A: I live on Shelter Island with my wife and our two children.
Q: I imagine there are different challenges with each season. Is there a particular time of year that is most difficult?
A: There are definitely different challenges in different seasons. Summertime is gangbusters for local businesses. So, that’s the most challenging and most exciting, too. We have to find several new summer hires every year. It’s fun to work toward that and having staff return from college. The challenges come when a boat breaks down or something goes wrong with mechanics, which happens from time to time. We have to get that problem fixed ASAP because the traffic demands that we have full service running all the time. The most challenging, but most exciting time is summer. Winter brings other challenges as well, such as people calling in with the flu and running on a cut staff.
Q: What is your favorite thing about the job?
A: Hands down, when I get time to work on the boat. It’s a break from the office. When I asked to come work for the ferry, I wanted to have an active lifestyle and be on my feet. Obviously, the office and administrative work has to get done, but being out there and working with my colleagues is my favorite part.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Shelter Island?
A: My wife and I were just talking about that. We feel very lucky to be able to live out here. The natural beauty is just gorgeous. I grew up in New York City, but I have been a weekend and summer kid out on Shelter Island most of my life. I’ve really come to appreciate the clean air, the clean water and being able to walk in [Mashomack Preserve] and take my dog to the beach. Those are my favorite things about being on Shelter Island.
Q: If you could add something new to the East End or even Shelter Island, what would it be?
A: I would love to have a Trader Joe’s nearby. I love that store. We don’t get to go up to Smithtown very often. I don’t think we want to start introducing big box stores out here, but a Trader Joe’s would be pretty cool.
Q: Any advice for travelers who are in the area and taking the ferry for the first time?
A: Do a little bit of homework. It’s amazing how many people drive onto our ferryboat not knowing they were going to be driving onto a ferryboat. They’re caught off guard. We are a cash-only business, so they need to be prepared for that. A little research can take care of this. Ask questions of the ferry staff. For example: ‘What would be fun to see?’ or ‘What’s going on?’ We have a lot of local knowledge that we are always happy to share. Also, don’t be afraid to go old school and look at a map.
The South Ferry Company is located at 135 South Ferry Road, Shelter Island. (631) 749-1200, southferry.com.