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 this 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.