To avoid shoaling in the traditional channel, ferries traveling between Hatteras and Ocracoke began taking a different path last week that adds around 20 minutes to crossing times.
North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division said last week that since the shoaling no longer allows the vessels to safely navigate the Barney Slough channel, ferries leaving Hatteras and Ocracoke islands are using the deeper and safer Rollinson Channel, which is 1.5 miles longer and adds roughly 20 minutes to each one-way trip.
Ferries are now leaving Hatteras at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and midnight. Ferries now leave Ocracoke at 4 a.m., 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Barney Slough has become dangerously shallow, leading to several instances in which ferries bumped the bottom of the channel and needed costly repairs to fix damage to the vessels.
“This is not something we take lightly,” said Interim Ferry Division Director Jed Dixon. “But the safety of our passengers and crews is our top priority, and conditions in Barney Slough have deteriorated such that it is no longer possible to continue operating there.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to begin emergency dredging and Corps officials have said they will dredge for seven days, weather permitting. When the Army Corps leaves the channel, the Ferry Division will revisit conditions in Barney Slough to determine whether it can safely resume operations there.
Travelers seeking alternate routes to and from Ocracoke Island can use the Cedar Island or Swan Quarter routes, which both operate three round trips daily and accept reservations.