For the first time in 35 years, Dublin city has a new ferry service.
It was a cold, bright pre-dawn morning when the No 11 Liffey Ferry left its berth beside the MV Cill Airne at 7am for its maiden voyage as a passenger ferry.
The Liffey was like glass and as the boat turned east in the direction of the Tom Clarke Bridge, a beautiful red sunrise framed the towers at Poolbeg.
It was a perfect start. The only thing that was missing was passengers. There were none.
"It's a bit early," confesses Charles Sheridan, one of the three members crew on the No 11 for its first three minute trip across the river to Sir John Rogerson's Quay. "From a commuter point of view, the 7am start will take some time to generate traction."
He is not fazed by the lack of passengers, saying that the service will take some time to establish itself and they already have a group booked in from one of the many companies headquartered in Dublin’s Docklands.
“There’s plenty of room for a viable ferry service. We are already looking at expansion plans,” he says, confidently.
Fares are €2, one way, and the service will be open to Leap cards in April.
The No 11 will travel between the MV Cill Airne berth on the North Quays and Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, a journey of three minutes, and from Sir John Rogerson’s Quay to the 3Arena, a journey of four minutes. The ferry will run between Monday and Friday between 7am and 7pm.
Much has changed since the last ferry operated across the river in 1984. The opening of the then East Link toll bridge created another Liffey crossing for those seeking to access Dublin Port from the southside of the city.
Prior to that as another crew member, Jimmy Daly, recalled one had to walk over Butt Bridge near the Custom House and all the way down to the Point Theatre (now the 3Arena) to gain access to Dublin Ports. "It was the longest walk ever," he jokes.
Even with the Samuel Beckett Bridge, which opened 10 years ago, it is still a kilometre’s walk from some parts of the south quays to the north quays.
The No 11 was salvaged by Richie Saunders, formerly a coxswain in its previous incarnation as a Liffey ferry service. It was rebuilt and overhauled by Arklow Marine Services to bring it up to a commercial standard.
The No 11 will be operated by the Irish Nautical Trust and all profits will be used to help fund the return of a new maritime training programme.
The boat will offer young adults from the inner city and Docklands areas the opportunity to gain practical marine experience and a formal qualification accredited by the Irish Sailing Association.