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I’m putting this excerpt from my book Eastern Shore Road Trips #2: 26 MORE One-Day Adventures of Delmarva up to mark the 60th birthday of the ferry service in 2024. What you see up top is how the ferry terminal looked in 1964.

Despite some unexpected problems on opening day on July 1 of that year, the ferry has gone on to great success. In 2023 it surpassed 50 million passengers. The chapter here covers more than this ferry. Titled “Five Ferry Tales,” it connects you with four other Delmarva ferry crossings. There is also a separate chapter in the book on visiting Lewes.

Here is where to find info on the book and how to buy it. And here’s the excerpt:

The final crossing here operates on a different scale altogether from the other ferries in this chapter. Rather than a short journey across a calm stretch of river, the ride across Delaware Bay from Lewes, Del., to Cape May, N.J. covers 17 miles and takes nearly an hour and a half. The vessels involved are longer than a football field. This trip involves elevators, air conditioning, snack bars, and free wi-fi.

You will catch glimpses along the way of three historic lighthouses—Cape May Light, the Harbor of Refuge Light, and the Delaware Breakwater East End Light. In the summer months, you might see some dolphins as well.

This Cape May-Lewes Ferry dates only to 1964, though politicians in Delaware and New Jersey had been talking on and off for most of the prior century about getting such a service up and running. When they finally managed it, things got off to an ignominious start, as the opening-day festivities with skydivers, jet fighters, bagpipe bands, and thousands of spectators were marred by an incident involving a propeller caught in a steel cable that left hundreds of passengers stranded on the very first crossing.

After reading up on the history of this ferry, I couldn’t help but wonder if ghosts might have been involved in that mishap. The accident happened at the Lewes terminal, which stands near historically dangerous waters where deadly shipwrecks have occurred with regularity over the centuries. Some of those shipwreck victims were supposedly buried here, in graves that lie under the parking lot at the terminal.

There have been several newspaper accounts in recent decades of strange goings-on at the terminal—doors slamming in empty rooms, hand dryers turning on in mysterious fashion, and a strange man in a cape with long white hair spending time in the women’s restroom. One ferry manager told a reporter that it has been nearly impossible to keep overnight staff on board. He described the case of one woman who had only been on the job three or four nights when:

“She came running in, threw the keys at me, and told me, ‘There’s ghosts in here, nobody told me that. I’m not staying—I quit, I’m done.'”

The ghost stories add a fun element to a trip in which you can’t really go wrong. The scenery on this voyage is outstanding, and the towns that lie on either end are full of interesting bits of history, as well as one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants (see Chapter 18 for Lewes). The Cape May-Lewes Ferry also offers a number of themed cruises during the year—think wine dinners, beer tastings, and fireworks-show trips.

–posted by Jim Duffy for Whimbrel Creations LLC/Secrets of the Eastern Shore in May 2024. All rights reserved.

NOTES:

• Here is the Cape May-Lewes Ferry website so you can plan a trip across Delaware Bay soon. The photo up top here is in the collection of the Lewes Historical Society.

• Here is where to find info on all of my books.

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