BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A maiden voyage Saturday will mark the return of ferry service to Ship Island out of Biloxi. The Skrmetta family began running boats to the island more than 90 years ago using Biloxi as its base of operation. It's been a Gulfport-only cruise for the last quarter century and now the ferry service is about to come full circle.
The boats are running to Ship Island out of the Gulfport Marina. Ship Island Excursions is waiting for a multi-million-dollar terminal to be completed at their homeport. A new pier is nearly finished, but the big story is in Biloxi.
"After 26 years of absence, we're back in Biloxi with our Ship Island ferry," said Captain Louis Skrmetta.
Louis Skrmetta and his family are getting ready for a homecoming. Saturday Ship Island Excursions will run the Capt. Pete from the west side of Margaritaville out to Ship Island. Family history will be revived.
"My grandfather started this business from this same location in the 1920s. It's hard to believe we've been in business for over 90 years. It all started in Biloxi with an old open schooner," Skrmetta said.
The city of Biloxi built a pier at Point Cadet Marina for the ferry service. Margaritaville is providing support services and a point from which to load and launch. There will be ample parking in a large paved area just west of the resort's parking garage. It's a perfect partnership.
"The city has been very helpful and supportive of us. They assured us that if we came back to Biloxi, we would have plenty of parking. That's where the folks from Margaritaville stepped up and said we're going to work with you and make sure it's a success," according to Skrmetta.
The Capt. Pete holds 308 passengers. The operation will continue to use Gulfport as its primary point of departure as the Biloxi side of the service gets off to a modest start.
"We're going to have a daily departure from Margaritaville at 10 am every day. We'll depart the island at 3:30 and be back at 4:30," Skrmetta said.
Skrmetta says if the Biloxi ferry service reaches expectations, the goal is to add a second trip to Ship Island next year.