Delivering the News with Fire Island Water Taxi: A Reporter Goes Along for the Ride

            A foreign language school teacher from Ronkonkoma pilots a Fire Island Water Taxi during the summer, traveling from mainland Bay Shore to the remote Fire Island communities to deliver newspapers to the locals.

Fire Island is just a quick water taxi ride away from mainland Long Island, consisting of 17 unique resort communities including private homes and rental accommodations.

It’s a barrier island that has the Great South Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Fire Island Water Taxi is based out of Bay Shore, New York. You can board the water taxi in Bay Shore and go cross-bay, or travel along the island laterally to access the various communities. Once visitors reach their destination, they move around by foot, bike, wagon or golf cart. Cars are prohibited except for emergency vehicles during the summer months. 

Capt. Will Bedell, commands this vessel, bringing passengers to places that some people do not know exist. And on this day, he transports bundled stacks of Fire Island News as well. Bedell grew up on boats and started operating skiffs, a shallow, flat-bottomed open boat, when he was 10 years old. A colleague gave him the idea of working for Fire Island Water Taxi. He started as a deckhand for his two years, then received his captain’s license. Bedell’s been a captain for the past 15 years. He says the best part of being a water taxi driver is the opportunity to see beautiful scenery and meeting new people. 

“You will witness all types of weather and every day is a new challenge,” says Bedell.   

One crucial responsibility to being a water taxi driver is being able to navigate the vessel through ever changing weather conditions.

Sean Carlin, the manager with the Fire Island Water Taxi says the Fire Island News partners with the water taxi. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the water taxi delivers the Fire Island News to the communities, every other week. Carlin added that people enjoy reading the Fire Island News because the paper goes in depth about what is going on and what is new with Fire Island.   

Kismet Inn, a family run Fire Island business, has been getting the paper delivered to their restaurant for many years, says Lawrence Ashly Cole. (His friends and family call him Ash.) Ash Cole began working at the restaurant with his father, Larry Cole when he was 13 years old. Larry Cole started working at the Kismet Inn in 1958 where he began as a dishwasher, then became a manager a few years later. He worked his way up to a partner and bought the place outright in 1992. At the age of 82, Larry still works alongside his sons, Ash and Michael. 

Ash says the newspapers don’t move like they used to because so much information can be accessed by smartphone these days, but people still love the hard copy edition. 

Kismet means fate or destiny. The Kismet Inn is presently one of oldest establishments on Fire Island. Come in for their famous baked clams and wings. They are the most popular items on the menu according to Ash Cole. 

Delivering the newspapers every other week is one of Bedell’s highlights of his summer.  He is grateful that he has the trust in the company and is afforded the opportunity. Bedell says that it is fun delivering the Fire Island News because he gets an opportunity to bring his 8-year-old son on board to be an honorary deckhand. It makes for great memories that will last a lifetime. 

When asked why people like the Fire Island News, he says it is not like mainstream media, it is about events, fundraisers and local happenings around the community. It’s positive and enjoyable.   

People love to go to Fire Island because it’ s a relaxing and fun environment.  Once you get there you can just hang out with no worries. Ash says, people like visiting Fire Island to escape the hecticness of life because things are slower on the island.  It does not matter if you are rich or poor, you can visit Fire Island.

About the Author: Joseph D’Agostino is a math teacher with the Freeport School District, presently working toward his second degree in Broadcasting and Mass Communication at SUNY Oswego.