Ferries in the Delta

Update  05/22/09 – Solano – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) today announced the award of a contract to build a new Real McCoy (Ryer Island Ferry). The $4.3 million contract was awarded to Nicols Brothers, a boat building company located in Freeland, Washington.

Caltrans anticipates having the new vessel in operation by summer 2010. Upon delivery the new vessel will continue to provide non-stop service from State Route 84 in Rio Vista to Ryer Island in Solano County.

Did you know that there are ferries in the Delta? When my children were much younger we spent a day island hoping, using roads and ferries to travel the Delta. Today there are only two ferries in the Delta that are available to the general public. These 2 ferries are actually part of our state highway system and are owned and operated by Caltrans and service Ryer Island, a farming and resort community with a population of approximately 400 people. Both ferries are free to ride.

The J-Mac, built in 1969, is a cable drawn ferry that carries about 4 cars or trucks at a time crossing Steamboat Slough to connect Grand Island to Ryer Island. The cruise generally takes about 3 minutes. It is sometimes referred to as the Steamboat Slough Ferry or Grand Island Ferry. This ferry is not recommended for RVs because of steep on and off ramps.

The Real McCoy, a Diesel-powered boat built in 1945, crosses Cache Slough providing non-stop service from State Route 84 in Rio Vista to Ryer Island. The vessel can take 6-8 vehicles, boats, RVs, trucks, busses, tractors and even mobile homes across ferry-rio51this deep water channel section of the Sacramento River. The boat is called the Real McCoy, named after the engineer who designed it. The crossing is called the “Cache Slough Ferry Crossing ” according to CalTrans. To further confuse the issue, the roadway signs there (installed by CalTrans) call this same ferry the “Ryer Island Ferry” . So, whether you call it the Real McCoy, Cache Slough or Ryer Island ferry it operates year round, 24 hours per day, except for 20-minute lunch and dinner breaks and takes about 4 minutes shore to shore.

The Real McCoy has been dry-docked for internal and external hull repairs, refurbished propellers, extensive mechanical repairs, a new coat of paint and several upgrades to meet U.S. Coast Guard mandates since January 12. Caltrans expects the repairs to be completed and the ferry returned to service by February 22. After its return it will undergo a 7 day test period, during which it will still provide full-operations service for patrons.

Caltrans then plans to pull the J-Mack ferry in March for similar repairs.


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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6 Responses to Ferries in the Delta

  1. Maria Oblea says:

    Mr. Kevin i am writing this letter again to see if you have an update about the Real McCoy ferry ? It has been almost 6 months that the ferry is closed and we really need it so please if you can put and up date on it we would appreciate it a lot.

    sincerely ???

  2. Maria Oblea says:

    excuse me but where can i see the update or what link should i go to :


  3. Kevin says:

    I’ve added a quick update on the ferry

  4. Maria Oblea says:

    To Whom it May Concern,

    I am a resident of Ryer Island and I am writing to let you know that the real McCoy ferry has been out of service for two months now and i would like to know some updates about it. We really need the ferry to be open for our every day transportation and as you know paying gas in this economy isn’t very easy for all of us. We need this service greatly and it isn’t easy on our children to wake up so early in order to catch the bus for their needed education. I hope you see this comment and I would greatly appreciate some action in fixing this.

    Thank You

  5. Leonard says:

    Great report on the California Delta Ferries, Kevin. I did not realize that you are so well informed and fond of our Delta. I just tripped over this searching for more information on the Real McCoy and the J-Mac for a friend and his son who will be visiting the area with me.

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