The Sarah M., flagship of the water taxi service.
One of the more delightful sights for Manhasset Bay watchers is the canopy-covered blue-hulled vessel known as the water taxi. The boat, the Sarah M. is the flagship of the fleet of proprietor Matthew P. Meyran of Manhasset Isle. The Sarah M., named after Meyran's mother, is a 21-foot Crosby diesel launch and carries up to 22 passengers. A second boat, a 24-foot Carolina open skiff, also plies the waters of the bay.
The Meyran legacy and love of the water go back three generations to the family's roots in Glasgow, Scotland where his grandfather was a boat builder. The Meyrans emigrated to New York shortly before the turn of the century and settled in Classon Point, the Bronx. On his well-earned family outings, Matt's father, Biff would cruise the waters of Manhasset Bay, Lloyd Neck and Northport. Biff worked as a sheet metal worker with New York's Local 28, known as the 'tin knockers union.' In the late 1940s, the beauty of the bay led the parents to decide to settle in one of only 16 homes, which existed at that time in the community of Manhasset Isle.
Matt was the first of the family born in Port Washington and he soon began a lifelong affection and vocation centered on Manhasset Bay's waters. When Matt was 11, his father bought him a 13-foot whaler for $200, which enabled young Matt to catch and sell fresh striped bass to the bay's many restaurants. As a teenager, he worked for three summers with the bay constables and participated in a rescue with the Nassau police of a pregnant woman who went overboard and remained in the water for nearly an hour. He worked as a scuba diver cleaning the hulls, drive shafts and propellers of boats. Over the years, he has worked at every major yacht club on the bay. In 1983, he founded Meyran Marine Services, a business focused on the bay's maritime needs. In 1996, he decided to expand the business and the water taxi service was begun.
Meyran instructs his captains to operate within the speed restrictions and avoid the navigational hazards in the bay. Captains are required to possess a current Master Inland License issued by the United States Coast Guard and undergo a two week, one-on-one orientation on the maritime features of the bay and surrounding waters of Long Island Sound.
As a service to the boating community, Meyran has donated and maintains five moorings south of Tom's Point near newly installed green buoy # 3A. The moorings are marked 'TNH 1 through 5,' secured with 500 pound mushroom anchors and are available at no charge for 48 hours. Visitors to Manhasset Bay may use these mooring to tie up and call the water taxi to reach Port's many restaurants and other facilities.
Meyran has seen his share of the rich and famous, who frequented the bay including such notables as Johnny Carson and Billy Joel. On one occasion, he responded to a landing of a seaplane having engine problems, which was occupied by Ed Bradley, the newscaster on CBS's Sixty Minutes. Bradley needed to be rushed by boat to a major broadcast event in Manhattan and asked Meyran if he could make the arrangements. Meyran did so and, after Bradley had left, first realized whom he helped.
About half the users of the water taxi are Port residents. Meyran praises his passengers many of whom come from socializing in Port's many restaurants and view the water taxi as a continuation of their enjoyable time. He said it was not unusual for patrons to break into song on their brief journeys.
Meyran is membership chairman of the Manhasset Isle Civic Association, which was founded in 1947 by George Lampus. The association consists of a group of Port and Manhasset Isle natives whose roots stem from an earlier time when the bay supported clam digging. He is also a member of another Port institution with strong ties to its waterfront, the Sportsmen's Club of Manhasset Bay. He regrets some of the changes on the bay such as the incursion of condominiums pushing out Port's waterfront. He praises the efforts of town officials who have done much to maintain the bay's clean water by increasing pump-out facilities, increased dredging programs and the planting of a natural salt grass (spartina), which effectively filters water coming into the bay via storm sewer drains.
Meyran's future plans include discussion with the town over offering the services of the water taxi to boaters moored off the town dock. A third vessel will be added to the fleet next year with the purchase of a 21-foot Crosby diesel launch which, among its other duties, will be used to assist the Sea Cliff Yacht Club with their annual Around Long Island Race.
The water taxi has a number of full-service regular users and offers several payment plans. A seasonal pass obtained by April 15 priced at $400 gives patrons unrestricted use of the taxi. The fare increases to $500 if paid after April 15. Infrequent users may purchase a book of 20 trip tickets for $60. Tours of Manhasset Bay are available at $10 per person with half-price for children under 12. Those considering using the service might want to try a trip from and to any point on the bay for $4 one way and $6 round trip per person. The water taxi is available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Wednesday and from 8 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday. To call the water taxi office, dial 516-767-1691 or call cell phone 516-455-0411. Boaters may use VHF and call on channel 9.