Long before the Great War, before the bombs destroyed the United States, New York City was a thriving metropolis. The Port of New York and New Jersey was one reason why, the busiest seaport on the east coast. Hundreds of ships sailed through the harbor daily, carrying tons of cargo and thousands of commuting residents and sightseeing tourists. The Mary Murray was one of those vessels, a 277-foot orange ferry operating between the New York City boros of Manhattan and Staten Island.
In 1975, the vessel was decommissioned from the Staten Island Ferry fleet, and sold at auction to an eccentric businessman named George Searl, who owned a small marina in East Brunswick. Along the Raritan River right off Exit 9 of the New Jersey Turnpike, one of the major highways cutting through the state. Searle sailed the vessel to his marina and moored it to the tidal swamplands, planning on turning the vessel into a floating restaurant.
Various setbacks and delays interrupted his plans for years, and in the interim, the vessel began decaying, falling victim to the elements. By the turn of the new millennium, it had begun taking on water and was no longer seaworthy. Instead of being a floating restaurant as Searle had originally imagined it, the vessel became a local landmark, and something of an environmental hazard. Until his death shortly after the turn of the century, George Searle had to regularly chase local gawkers and urban explorers off his property, away from the ferry.
At some point, before the Great War began, the Searle family began repairing the boat, paying homage to the patriarch of the family that acquired it in the first place. The process was long and difficult, but by mid-century, the Mary Murray well on her way to becoming a floating restaurant and nightclub. Then, the Great War began and the bombs fell. Her location was far enough away from New York City that she was not completely incinerated, but the vessel was in the outer bands of the blast zones of the bombs that fell on Manhattan, and as such, she incurred damage from airbursts and nuclear heat. Ironically, the lead paint, asbestos, and other materials that were cited as being dangerous to the environment were what saved the vessel and those that took refuge on her from complete annihilation.
As America crumbled, the Mary Murray once again was forgotten by the world around her. Members of the Searle family and a handful of other locals took refuge on the vessel when the bombs fell in 2077, and as society began picking itself back up, they remained on the boat. An easily defensible position with escape routes along the Raritan River if necessary and ample foodstuffs in fish and riverside vegetation, the Mary Murray afforded those living on and nearby a pillar of stability in the years after the Great War. As society returned to the area, such as it was, there was need to lean on the vessel as a place of protection.
Once again, the idea of turning the vessel into some kind of attraction became bandied around. Noticing the regularity in which traders passed by, using the nearby Pre-War infrastructure, the vessel became something of a public house, attracting travelers by providing food and drink, entertainment, and a safe place to stay. This, of course, attracted unwanted attention. Raiders and nearby tribals saw the wealth that the operation was producing and led periodic raids and attacks on it. To defend against them, the Searle family began hiring mercenaries and other toughs to protect their home. The Authority, the leaders of nearby Brick City saw the wealth that the operation was producing and began imposing taxes on it, else they send their own mercenaries to forcibly take control of it. To defend against that, the Searle’s complied and paid The Authority taxes.
In 2277, a drifter going by the name “Lucky” Louie Costello was staying at the Mary Murray. Scott Searle, owner of the ferry and patriarch of the Searle family, was known to interact with his guests, and the two became involved in a high stakes game of chance. The exact details are not widely known, but Costello got Searle to place the Mary Murray on the line during their game, and the drifter won. Whether or not Scott intended on staying true to his word is unknown, as roughly a week after the contest, he was found dead, a victim of either foul play or his own hand. Owing to his own roots as a gambler, Costello placed more of a focus on gambling, importing slot machines and other games of chance from Atlantic City and Pilgrim’s Landing, but for the most part, he has changed very little aboard the ferry. It still functions as a safe haven for those passing by, affording them protection from the Jersey Wasteland for a nominal fee.