UPPER TOWNSHIP — A Tuckahoe boatyard finished the first of two new ferries that will start taking commuters to jobs in Manhattan this year.
Yank Marine Inc. finished the 400-passenger Molly Pitcher, named for New Jersey’s Revolutionary War heroine who helped soldiers during the Battle of Monmouth.
The new ferry will join the New York Waterways fleet to begin operations later this year.
The 18-month construction faced some hurdles because of last winter’s brutal cold, owner Bette Jean Yank said.
“If it’s too cold, you can’t weld. And all the machines don’t want to run when it’s that cold,” she said. “They ran portable heaters inside, but we were really fighting some single-digit temperatures and a lot of snow and ice. That was the biggest obstacle.”
The Molly Pitcher sailed through her U.S. Coast Guard sea trials, Yank said.
The new ferry has to be able to carry substantially more weight than those built a generation ago, Yank said.
“A few years, back the Coast Guard changed all the stability criteria by increasing the average weight of a human being. It used to be 150 pounds. Now it’s 185 pounds,” she said.
The boatyard fills barrels with water to simulate a full passenger load, she said.
“During the sea trials, they were pleased by how it handled. And it was rough the day they took it out,” she said. “We were pleased with how it turned out.”
The company expects to finish the second ferry, the Betsy Ross, in September.
The new ferry features amenities such as satellite TV and WiFi to cater to business commuters. The Molly Pitcher is expected to take up service at Pier 11 serving Wall Street. The restrooms are nicer and more spacious than on other ferries, Yank said.
“It has a nice bar for cocktails for the ride home. Flatscreen TVs. It’s a little more luxurious than some of their other ferries,” she said.
Yank doubled in size to 62 employees when it won the ferry contract two years ago. But the company is securing new jobs that should help retain its larger work force, Yank said.
“We probably won’t be laying anyone off. We’re getting more interest because of these ferries,” she said.
The project had an untold impact on the local economy in Upper Township, Yank said.
“It definitely has a trickle-down effect when you do a project this big,” she said.
Mayor Richard Palombo said the project had a welcome impact.
“There is no question having 30 more people in the work force generates economic interest for the businesses in the township,” he said. “They buy meals and gas and stop for things on their way to or from work,” he said.
Meanwhile, Yank Marine could be the subject of a new reality-style TV show. Original Productions LLC, filmed at the marina this year for a new National Geographic Channel series about boatyards called “The Yard.”
According to National Geographic, the series will focus on the marine workers who keep commercial fleets on the water.
The marina posted a photo on Facebook of the production company’s release at the main entrance to allow crews to film the comings and goings at the boatyard.
“Things are getting very interesting at Yank Marine,” it said on its page.