Lake Agawam Ferry Revival Slated For July In Southampton Village

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In the 1800s, it was not uncommon, when looking out over Lake Agawam, to see a small boat captained by local entrepreneur and former slave Pyrrhus Concer ferrying local visitors to the southern shores of the lake and back.Although Mr. Concer eventually stopped his daily pilgrimage across the lake, the concept has not been forgotten. Next month, a similar ferry service traversing the lake will launch in honor of the 200th anniversary of Mr. Concer’s birthday.

To accommodate the ferry, which will run periodically through August, Southampton Village is in the process of refurbishing a floating dock already in place on the north side of the lake, near the Agawam monument, and is working to install a small boardwalk along that shoreline.

“We are really excited about people having the opportunity to see the lake from the water,” organizer Nicholas Palumbo said this week. “We are really trying to get the message out there through our website and online, and through video about Pyrrhus Concer, and our effort in general is calling attention to the his story.”

Pyrrhus Concer, an African-American, was born a slave in Southampton in 1814 and became a whaler in Sag Harbor after he was freed. While on a whaling expedition, Mr. Concer was on a boat captained by Mercator Cooper that rescued several Japanese sailors who were in distress, becoming one of the first Americans to dock in Tokyo, as well as one of the first black men seen by most native Japanese. Upon returning to Southampton, Mr. Concer launched the Lake Agawam ferry to transport visitors from the village to the ocean beach.

According to Mr. Palumbo, he first got the idea for the ferry two years ago after reading an article about Mr. Concer’s life. Intrigued, he realized that the year of Mr. Concer’s 200th birthday, which was this past March, would be the perfect opportunity to bring his story to light. So he organized a committee—including Kevin Luss, Sean Hattrick, Ed Simioni, Josh Belury and Mark Parash—to launch the ferry.

“I was surprised, because I have lived here for my whole life and I had never heard about it,” Mr. Palumbo said. “Since then, I have seen that there was some effort in the past to put this story out there, but it never really seemed to attract a lot of attention.”

The boat, which Mr. Palumbo hopes will sail for the first time on July 9, is an 18-foot-long electric vessel with a capacity for nine passengers. However, due to licensing restrictions, only six passengers and the captain will be allowed on at a time. The boat can hold an eight-hour charge, has no emissions and does not make noise, Mr. Palumbo said.

This summer, the ferry will do one approximately 15-minute loop around Lake Agawam, starting and ending by the Agawam Park Memorial. The boat that will be used for the ferry will be on display during the village’s annual Fourth of July parade, when it will be transported down the parade route.

“It has been a really fun community effort,” Mr. Palumbo said. “A lot of people have helped us get to the point where we are now, which is being so close to being able to pull this off.”

This month, Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said the village is working hard to improve the launching area. The floating dock that is currently there has been used to launch canoes and kayaks, as well as to accommodate small-scale races. Now it will be refurbished and easier to step down to.

At the same time, the village is putting in a boardwalk along the edge of the lake. The village will also be cleaning up the area, where there is overgrown grass, downed trees and a broken fence.

More information about the ferry, and Phyrrus Concer, can be found online at Agawamferry.org.

“It has been a really fun community effort,” Mr. Palumbo said. “A lot of people have helped us get to the point where we are now, which is being so close to being able to pull this off.”

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