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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The "A Dream Becomes Reality!: Part I" Story

The outside of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal in Cape May.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in the ferry terminal waiting for the 4:10 pm ferry from Lewes, Delaware to arrive along side us at Cape May, New Jersey.  Carol and I, along with my brother Steve and sister-in-law Kathy, began our day by driving from Stone Harbor, where Steve and Kathy have a rental house for a week, to Cape May for some shopping and lunch at the Lobster House.  After lunch we hopped in the car and I told them I was going to take them to see the Cape May-Lewes Ferry which is nearby.  Followed the signs and in 15 minutes we were parked in front of the ferry terminal.  Carol and I had visited the terminal a few years ago with our friends Jerry and Just Sue and I thought Kathy and Steve might enjoy watching the ferry either departing to or arriving from Lewes, DE.  
This is the concrete ship that sunk at Cape May Point.
This is the 50th Anniversary of the ferry and I thought it would be neat to visit and see what they might have planned for their celebration.  It was in 1957 that the Garden State Parkway was completed from New York to Cape May.  Naturally, the next thing to do would be to hop on a ferry and continue onto Lewes, Delaware.  Wasn't until 7 years later that it would be possible to complete that journey that was only imagined in 1957.  Actually the idea of a ferry between these two points was thought of in 1895 when the state of Delaware ran the Queen Anne Railroad to Lewes hoping that someone would begin a ferry service to Cape May.  Never happened until once again in 1926 a Baltimore developer had the same idea of a ferry and purchased three experimental concrete ships that were built for transport during WWI.  
This is the west end of the Cape May Canal at the entrance
to the Delaware Bay.  It shows the site of the ferry
terminal.  Photo taken May 4, 1964
One of the vessels broke loose of it's moorings during a storm and sank along the shoreline where it still rests at Cape May Point.  The developer gave up his idea, but with the new parkway being completed, the idea was re-imagined.  Finally in 1962 the legislatures of New Jersey and Delaware created the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA).  The DRBA awarded the Cape May-Lewes Ferry $12.7 million in start-up funds and proposed a 1964 time line for the first ferry run.  DRBA bought four vessels: The SS (Steam Ship) Delaware, SS New Jersey, SS Cape May and MV (Motor Vessel) Cape Henlopen.  
This early photo shows the Cape May Terminal in June of 1964.
All were the same size of 320 feet long and 68 feet wide with a top speed of 16 knots and each having two 4,000 HP diesel engines.  On July 1, 1964 the first ferry vessel departed the Lewes, DE terminal at 6:47 am, 7 minutes late.  The ferry carried eight vehicles and 15 passengers.  
The car pictured here is a 1964 Ford Mustang which made it's debut
in 1964. The driver is Andrea Lippi who purchased Ticket #1 for the
Cape May-Lewes Ferry.  The date was July 1, 1964.  The photo was
supplied by Catherine Lippi of Goshen, NJ and was taken by Fred Coldren.
Each vehicle paid $3.25 the drivers and passengers paid $0.75 for a total haul of $37.25.  The cele- bration of the first launch featured skydivers jumping out of planes, fighter jets making flyovers, sailboat races, a power boat parade, bands playing and pipers piping.  Not sure where the jumpers landed, but they jumped.  
This is the Lewes Terminal waiting for the Ferry for their
dedication ceremony. 
The Captain for the first trip was Billy Ray Phillips who was at the helm of the MV Cape Henlopen.  Since that first launch the ferry has carried 14 million vehicles and 42 million passengers.  The dream had finally become a reality!  In 1994 the DRBA began a $54 million campaign to upgrade the fleet, terminal and services.  What we are standing in today at the ferry terminal was probably only a dream back in 1964 when the ferry finally departed Lewes on its maiden voyage.  Follow with me tomorrow as I take you on a visual trip through the terminal and show you the docking of one of the ferries.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

This is the Lewes Terminal two years later in 1966.

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