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Clearwater Beach ferry set to begin

If Memorial Causeway transforms into amile-long traffic jam this weekend, don't panic. Beginning Saturday, there will be a new way to get to and from Clearwater Beach: via ferry.

Using a boat called the Harbor Hopper, the ferry service will make four trips per day between a dock at the western end of Drew Street in downtown Clearwater to one at the Sea Stone Resort, 445 Hamden Drive, on Clearwater Beach.

Although the ferries will leave every two hours at first, there's a chance they could leave more frequently if demand is high. "If it requires more, then we'll do more," said Bryan Monroe, operations manager of Clearwater Ferry Service.

He said it is possible the ferries could leave every hour or even every half-hour. The trips will cost $1.50 per person each way.

City officials still are seeking permits so a dock could be built that would enable the ferry to stop at a second beach location at the Clearwater Beach Recreation Center, 69 Bay Esplanade.

Ferry service also will be offered from the Drew Street dock to Caladesi Island. The round-trip charge will be $6.95, plus 50 cents admission to the park.

The ferry plan has been in the works for years. City officials have wanted to begin a ferry service to reduce beach-bound traffic and to provide a tourist attraction.

The city in 1987 negotiated an agreement with a company headed by Phil Henderson, who also operates the Admiral dinner boat and the ferry between Caladesi and Honeymoon islands. Henderson is president of Clearwater Ferry Service.

Last month the company began operating a boat trip from the Drew Street Dock to Tarpon Springs. The $17.50 one-way price includes lunch at Pappas Restaurant. A return trip is $6.

Here is the schedule for the ferry service:

From Sea Stone Resort to the Drew Street Dock: 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

From the Drew Street dock to the Sea Stone Resort: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

From the Drew Street dock to Caladesi Island: 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

From Caladesi Island to the Drew Street dock: 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.