Demand up for Boston Harbor tours

A.J. Bauer

More people are taking advantage of ferry services to the Boston Harbor islands this summer, and Quincy ferry operator Water Transportation Alternatives is using resources gained in a recent acquisition to meet the growing demand.

The company bought Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Water Taxi last November for an undisclosed amount and is using two of its five bright yellow, newly acquired boats to expand its harbor islands ferry service to Hingham and Hull.

Bill Walker, a principal at Water Transportation Alternatives, said the new South Shore service runs seven days a week and ferries leisure-seekers from the Hingham Shipyard and Pemberton Pier in Hull to destinations such as George’s, Grape, Bumpkin and Spectacle islands, to name a few.

Before this summer, Walker’s company provided ferry service to the islands from Quincy and downtown Boston. Those routes have continued this summer with the company’s older boats. The company also runs commuter ferry services from Quincy and Hull for the MBTA and a whale-watching excursion.

Walker said the new island service from Hingham and Hull has caught on quickly, and the 72-seat boats his company brought up from Florida are taking on more and more customers each week.

That’s no surprise to Vivien Li, executive director of the Boston Harbor Association. Li, whose organization is an advocacy group for the harbor, said demand for association-sponsored trips to the harbor islands have doubled over last year.

Li attributes the marked increase in harbor-goers to the sour economy and high gas prices, which she said are forcing vacationers to consider options closer to home.

“People are rediscovering their own backyard,” Li said.

Water Transportation Alternatives will run the expanded harbor service through Labor Day, when it will shift its resources to Florida. In that state, the company will use a catamaran from its Quincy fleet to resume a seasonal ferry service between Fort Lauderdale and Miami’s South Beach.

A.J. Bauer may be reached