When we say we go with the flow, it means the tide comes in and the tide goes out, and we go wherever it takes us,” says Matt Meyran, who founded the Port Washington Water Taxi in 1996. He has been out on the bay since what he describes as “negative numbers,” referring to when his mother went fishing while she was expecting him.
The relaxed, friendly style of the Port Water Taxi has brought both locals and out-of-towners to Manhasset Bay for water tours since its inception 20 years ago.
“You come down, you get an ice cream cone, you get a cocktail and you get on the boat,” Meyran says, exhibiting the carefree atmosphere he likes to foster.
Because he practically grew up on the water, Meyran was shocked when he found out that there were Port Washington residents who had spent their whole lives living so close to the bay without ever experiencing being on the water.
“I wanted people to enjoy the water like I enjoy the water, to get out there and be on the bay with their families,” Meyran says, as he describes how peaceful and liberating it feels to be out in the middle of the harbor.
The water taxi, which operates from 8 a.m. until midnight on weekends and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, offers a variety of tour options from 15- to 90-minutes long. The Library Tours provide historical information about Port Washington and the surrounding area. Some of the topics covered on these tours focus on the area’s extensive wildlife, including seals, turtles, osprey and dolphins; the clamming industry dating back to the Dutch settlers; and Port Washington’s history of sand mining, which played a crucial role in producing much of the concrete used to construct New York City. On-board discussions are not limited to these subjects; Meyran stresses the importance of going with the flow, and steering the conversation in a direction that interests the specific group of passengers.
Perhaps the most intriguing tour is the excursion to Execution Rocks Lighthouse, which provides the option of allowing visitors to spend a night there. The lighthouse, which is owned by Craig Morrison, founder of Historically Significant Structures Inc., provides guests with what Meyran describes as a “kickback atmosphere” for the overnight stay.
While at the lighthouse, guests can climb the tower, look out over the water at Manhattan, appreciate the sounds of the wildlife and perhaps see fireworks, says Morrison. “Tranquil and beautiful” are the words he uses to describe the location, adding that “it’s a remarkable place to be…in the middle of the Long Island Sound.”
The lighthouse has two bedrooms that each accommodate two guests, which are available for overnight rental on Saturdays for $300 per room or $250 for one person. Guests bring their own sleeping bags, coolers, food and water, but cots and a grill are available at the lighthouse.
As a state and federal nonprofit organization, Historically Significant Structures Inc. relies on donations and admission fees to fund the $1 million needed to complete the restoration project. Learn more about Execution Rocks Lighthouse at www.lighthouserestorations.org.
Other popular tour options are offered aboard the 47-foot Charles II. The adults-only Sunset Tour, which provides a casual yet romantic hour-and-a-half trip around Manhasset Bay and the Long Island Sound, concludes with a breathtaking sunset over the Manhattan skyline. This 7 to 9:30 p.m. tour encourages passengers to bring their own food and drinks, relax and enjoy the view.
Also noteworthy are the City Island Restaurant Tour, which transports 10 passengers to a restaurant on City Island, and the Great Gatsby tour, which highlights the importance of Manhasset Bay in the creation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s acclaimed novel.
But, if you simply want to enjoy a short outing on the bay, 15-minute tours are offered for just $5. Enjoy the serenity of the sound of the waves against the boat, the flapping of the terns and the nautical experience.
Being a local, welcoming business has been important to Meyran throughout his career, and it’s his priority to make visitors feel as much at home as the locals. “The water taxi invites people into Port Washington to visit our community and feel welcome,” he says, and one of the ways he does that is to provide two days of free mooring for long-distance travelers.
Meyran wants to promote the water taxi as a simple, inexpensive way to unwind on the water and appreciate time well spent with loved ones.
“I want [people] to feel what I feel…freedom on the water,” Meyran says. “It’s a calming, beautiful place to be…I want them to feel calm and happy and glad to be alive.”
For more information on the Port Washington Water Taxi’s services and tour prices, visit www.portwatertaxi.com. For tour reservations, availability and information about private parties, call 516-767-1691.