Cape May-Lewes Ferry gives young boy a summer's worth of excitement

September 14, 2013
Captain Joe Napoleon explains some of the finer points of navigation to Andrew. SOURCE SUBMITTED

Edward Goldberg, MD, is a cardiologist who has owned a home and vacationed in Lewes for the past three decades. His grandsons, Andrew and Zach, visited Lewes last summer during July and August. A visit to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry was a daily routine and its workings a magnet for a child’s curiosity. Below is Goldberg’s account, written with his grandsons in mind:

A visit to the ferry

Andrew, a 6-year-old first-grader, has fallen in love with the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. This love affair started last summer when he and his grandfather, Sa, visited the ferry every day. Each morning Sa was awakened promptly at 7 a.m. to be in time for breakfast and the 8 a.m. ferry. The morning always started with reading the ferry schedule and noting the color of the day, which defined the frequency of arrivals.

Andrew’s  breakfast was chocolate milk and a blueberry muffin. Cocoa puffs were a second choice when banana nut muffins were the only muffins available. Sa drank coffee and read The New York Times.

When the ferry arrived, Andrew would stand on the sidewalk watching the cars, trucks, campers, motorcycles and bicycles leave the vessel. While the ferry was being loaded, he pretended to be the police officer directing traffic. Sometimes Katie the dog, little brother Ryan or Colorado cousin Zach would join the festivities. However, only Andrew had the enthusiasm to mount an endless stream of questions about the workings of the ferry.

Andrew soon became the mascot of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. Everyone greeted him by name, answered his questions and provided photo opportunities or their business cards. He soon had a collection, which looked like baseball cards with pictures of the ferry captain, police officer or police dog.

Police Officer Palmer answered Andrew’s endless stream of questions and let him honk the siren, turn on the flashing lights and speak on the hailer. What a special treat. Andrew also knew that if he was bad he would have to sit in the hard seats in the back of the police cruiser. Officer Chapman shared the Say No to Strangers pamphlet with Andrew and supplied some for his classmates.

Captain Joe Napoleon was Andrew’s best bud. As Andrew stood at the ferry ramp each morning watching the cars, Captain Joe spent time answering his questions, providing coveted business cards and photo ops, allowing Andrew to talk into the hand-held radio and instructing the security guards to “run the cars” - load the ferry. Andrew became an honorary crew member when Captain Joe gave him a crew-members-only ferry baseball cap.

The day came for Andrew and Sa’s annual round trip across the bay. Captain Joe made special arrangements for Andrew to spend the trip in the pilothouse where he met Captain Stan Hansen. Captain Stan answered each of Andrew’s questions, explaining the fine points of navigation and the function of radar and even allowed Andrew to blow the horn and steer the ferry.

Upon return, Andrew watched with excitement as Captain Joe backed the ferry into Slip 1 at the terminal. He asked why the ferry most frequently docked in Slip 1. Captain Joe explained the ferry always went into the windward slip so the wind would blow the ferry into the dock and not the rocks in case of a power failure.

On the last day, Andrew thanked Captain Joe, Captain Stan and Officer Palmer for making his trip to the beach so special. He added, “By the way, don’t forget to recommend me for a summer job when I am old enough.”

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