State transportation officials say that shoaling in the channel navigated by the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route is critical and limiting travel just as the busier spring schedule begins.
The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division said Monday that the number of scheduled runs increases Tuesday from 18 to 26 daily departures from each side. The schedule is as follows:
- From Hatteras: 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m., 11 p.m., midnight.
- From Ocracoke: 4:30 a.m., 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m., midnight.
Officials noted that while the number of departures is increased, critical shoaling issues in Sloop Channel outside the Ocracoke ferry terminal have limited the size of ferries that can safely operate on the route. The problem has forced ferry officials to reduce the number of vehicles that can be carried on each departure, leading to longer-than-usual wait times.
“We understand and sympathize with the recent frustrations travelers are experiencing on the Hatteras route,” said Ferry Division Director Harold Thomas. “However, safety is our number one priority, and until water depths reach an adequate level in Sloop Channel, our smallest boats are the only option.”
The Ferry Division is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to have the area dredged as soon as possible, officials said. Until then, passengers on the Hatteras route may experience wait times as long as two hours or more. However, motorists can avoid lengthy wait times by considering the following options:
- Avoid peak travel times. At the Hatteras terminal, peak congestion occurs on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and at the Ocracoke terminal between 4 p.m. and midnight.
- Consider accessing Ocracoke via the Cedar Island or Swan Quarter routes. Those routes accept reservations and vessels have larger carrying capacities.
The full summer schedule for the Hatteras ferry route begins May 17.