The alternate driving route uses the toll-free Dames Point Bridge but is 28 miles (45 km) long. The ferry has been operating since 1874.
These vessels operated in the ferry fleet:
primary: Jean Ribault, built 1996, 40 vehicles, 206 passengers.
stand-by: Blackbeard, built 1956, 42 vehicles, 207 passengers.
Additional ferries which were in service included the Jean LaFitte which was a 26 car ferry,the Reliance,the sirus,U.S.Coast Guard documents these vessels,some of the older ferries have been renamed to pass inspection. The history of the ferry dates back to 1874 according to the New York Times and the library of Congress The Florida Department of Transportation, which had always operated the service, had the Mayport Ferry line item budget vetoed by Governor Charlie Crist for 2007-2008. The City of Jacksonville had been contributing $200,000-300,000 for several years, so instead of allowing the service to end, the City of Jacksonville assumed full responsibility. However, they lost over $1 million in one year, and Mayor John Peyton announced that there was insufficient money available in the new budget.
The Jacksonville Port Authority took over operation of the ferry for 2007 and lost half a million dollars each year, but uses port revenue, not tax money, to underwrite the operation. After taking over, the JPA decided to cut costs and sell the Blackbeard, the backup vessel built in 1956. That meant that whenever the Jean Ribault had problems, ferry service would be suspended. On February 5, 2009 the ferry was put into dry dock for routine maintenance, but hull corrosion required an extra week of repairs, and there was no service for a month.