Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day and Night on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry

We sailed on the MV Delaware last week
I've always toyed with the idea of a job on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, cruising back and forth across the Delaware Bay. By 'always', I really mean 'always', because the ferry has existed since I was one.  The ferry is important to the Cape May region. It lessens that end-of-the-world, southern-tip-of-the-peninsula vibe and it brings travelers through the county as they enjoy a refreshing break from driving along the coast. It's a pleasant ride and the bay is rarely rough enough to inspire seasickness. One does have to remember that the air temperature is much cooler at sea. We noticed the difference as soon as we backed out of the dock! We did not last long on these deck chairs even though the sun was delightful.

We thought we'd relax on these deck chairs until our fingers started to freeze. (That's the terminal in the background.)

As for my ferry career, my skill sets don't match up very well for most of the ferry's positions.
For example, I never did learn how to navigate using the stars and a sextant, so the Captain position is out. They have Able-Bodied Seamen last I checked, and well, I'm not sure how qualified I would be for that position. They have to lift and toss some pretty heavy ropes. And tie knots. I learned the square knot in Girl Scouts, and I can crochet. I don't think either would keep the enormous ferry from drifting away from the dock in hurricane-force winds. I could probably run a cash register at the gift shop or cafe, but then the open sea would be out of view and I wouldn't be able to scan for dolphins or whales.

I suppose I will have to be satisfied with occasional jaunts as a civilian paying passenger, riding just for the sake of an eighty-minute cruise each way, or to hang out in Lewes, Cape Henlopen, Rehoboth, or other Southern Delaware spots for the day. We started our recent Delaware visit with a fast left turn out of the ferry terminal lot and heading for Cape Henlopen State Park. The park is atop a giant sand dune, and gives the effect of being somewhere other than the Mid-Atlantic Coast. Prickly pear cactus grows wild here, and the ground is sand--not sandy, but sand. (Did we get on a plane and fly to the Southwestern U.S.? No, we cruised eighty minutes on the ferry!)

Looking east in Cape Henlopen State Park (that's the Atlantic Ocean back there)
After a long day of exploring the park and some tax-free shopping at the Rehoboth Outlets, it's time to sail back home to Cape May. The ferry at night has its own mystique. The water is black, so there's no whale or dolphin sighting.

Practicing low-light photography on the dark deck.
The skyline of Cape May is visible across the bay, and it's always a thrill to spot the lighthouse with its revolving beacon. Most passengers on our 7:45 cruise looked worn-out, too, from a day of play or travel. Many snoozed, and some read.
Fred read.
The ferries have just been outfitted with snazzy new seats. Some have tables, some have hidden tablets that swing up and across, and some seats even recline. (Props to Fred for figuring out the last two features.)

I have a funny ferry anecdote. I planned to meet a couple of friends last summer who were driving to Cape May for the day. They invited me to cruise back and forth on the ferry with them, and then we'd go to Cape May for lunch. I was on vacation, installed at the Cape May house. (We can hear the ferry honking its various maritime signals from inside our house. One long means get on the boat NOW, and one long followed by four shorts means it's ready to blast off.) I drove over to the terminal but couldn't find them. I took this video of the ferry pulling out and heading to sea for another project before giving up. It turns out they saw a car like mine in the parking lot, and when I wasn't in the terminal they figured I was on the ship already and went aboard. They didn't find me on the ship, either. That was someone else's chili pepper red MINI Cooper in the parking lot, and I arrived right after they did in my MINI. We caught up eventually--they graciously waited for me to sail over on the next departing ferry and we all rode back together. Here's the video I took as I missed the boat:

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