The ferry H200, the first of 13 catamaran passenger vessels for New York’s Citywide Ferry system, has begun its 1,700-mile voyage to the city with arrival expected in early April.

Workers at Horizon Shipbuilding Inc., Bayou La Batre, Ala., saw the ferry off on March 21 with the University of Alabama fight song trumpet fanfare, company officials said. A second ferry, H201, is scheduled to depart soon, the shipyard said.

Just three days into the voyage, the H200 encountered some excitement, according to a New York Times report. The planned route involved taking the ferry across the width of Florida through a series of canals — an effort to save time and avoid rough seas. On Friday, the boat briefly got stuck in the mud in a canal near Lake Okeechobee, and the canal route was scrapped in favor of the long way around, at least for this vessel.

In all, by 2018, Horizon and Metal Shark in Franklin, La., will have built 19 ferries planned for the public system. Citywide Ferry by Hornblower will open this summer with six routes offering one-way fares of $2.75 – the same price as hopping the city subway.

It’s a big initiative for the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who set the goal of affordable, citywide water transport to give people in the outer boroughs the kind of transit options offered by higher-priced private ferry companies that carry commuters between Manhattan and New Jersey.

The 86’x29’ Incat Crowther-designed aluminum vessels will carry 149 passengers, and include features like public Wi-Fi and charging stations, accommodation for bicycles, and heated foredecks for passenger safety when boarding in winter. Boats on the route for the Rockaways, the city’s far eastern seaside neighborhoods, will also have racks for surfboards.

The vessels are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the city’s accessibility requirements. Propulsion comes from pairs of Moteurs Baudouin M26.3 series diesels — six cylinder, 815-hp at 2,100 rpm for boats on shorter routes, and 12-cylinder, 1,400-hp at 2,100 rpm for the Rockaway boats on their longer route through the lower harbor and bigger sea conditions.

“Hornblower has been an excellent partner throughout the build process,” said Horizon president Travis Short in announcing the first boat’s departure. “Everyone knew going into this that it would require long nights, weekends, unforeseen frustrations and a lot of sweat. The Hornblower team was right there alongside of us every step of the way.”

Citywide Ferry coordinator Sarah McDonald called the H200 delivery “a major milestone.”

“The completion and delivery of this first vessel reset the fire of morale on the project for both companies. We know that we are far from finished, but we send huge congratulations to Horizon Shipbuilding and thank them for all their hard work so far,” McDonald said.

The ferries are on a tight timeline, with 10 from Horizon and three from Metal Shark scheduled to enter service this summer. The additional six ferries are scheduled for delivery in 2018. John Lander, Citywide Ferry’s head of construction, thanked the workforce.

“The endless hours, tireless effort and dedication to this project proves what we already knew – we have incredibly skilled shipbuilders who can get the job done,” Lander said.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.