As boat rides go, it’s just a bit longer than a cruise through the Tunnel of Love at a traveling carnival. But veteran passengers and local residents will tell you, in its own way, this ride is a lot more fun.The Balboa Island Ferry has been traversing an unusually picturesque stretch of channel in Newport Harbor, from the Fun Zone to Balboa Island and back, since 1919—about 900 feet of tranquil bliss.
It’s seen everything from daily commuters to movie stars, it’s employed generations of young skippers and deck hands working summer jobs, it’s been the scene of pranks, impromptu musical performances and weddings, and it’s managed to become one of the most beloved and recognizable features of the Newport Beach lifestyle.
Seymour Beek knows the ferry better than anyone. His father, J.A. Beek, took over ferry service from the Balboa Peninsula to Balboa Island a year after World War I ended, when the neighborhood was a sand pit with hardly any permanent residents. “People camped on the island and had beach shanties in the summer,” says Seymour Beek. His father won a contract from the city worth $50 a month, “which was pretty good back then,” says the son.