Employee Reunion Marks 50 Years Without a Ferry

Ferry reunion attendees assemble at Cape Charles Welcome Center.

Ferry reunion attendees assemble at Cape Charles Welcome Center.

Cape Charles Historical Society

April 7, 2014

On Saturday, March 15, the Cape Charles Historical Society hosted a reunion of Chesapeake Bay ferry employees. The ferry operations ended at Kiptopeke 50 years ago with the opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Many of the ferry employees went to Delaware and New Jersey to work with the newly formed Cape May-Lewes ferries; others went to work on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and a few went to new jobs working on ships in Panama.

Over 50 people attended including approximately 20 former ferry employees along with family members and other ferry enthusiasts. Ferry employees included captains, mates, deck hands, janitors, office staff, wheelsmen, boiler tenders, and engineers, as well as auxiliary support personnel. Also attending the reunion were representatives from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

The Cape Charles Museum was filled with laughter and the sound of stories being told, memories being rekindled, and friendships being renewed. The nostalgic atmosphere was enhanced by the many ferry model displays, paintings, and pictures as video clips of old ferry scenes ran on several televisions and computers. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel also provided an interesting display of memorabilia collected over the years.

Ron West and Butch Baxter presented a slideshow with commentary about the history of the concrete ships making up the breakwater at Kiptopeke and the final destination of the ferries, most of which have been scrapped. Interesting facts presented included accounts of the sinking of the Northampton when she struck an unmarked reef (Suwanee Rock) in the Gulf of California’s Lorenzo Channel leading into La Paz, Mexico, on June 19, 1975, and the sinking of the Princess Anne in May 1993 off Palm Beach, Florida, to create a fishing reef. The Virginia Beach is still running as a ferry in Connecticut. The Old Point Comfort was grounded and abandoned on the Rio Parana’ River in San Nicolas, Argentina, in 1993. The Accomac (once the Virginia Lee) burned May 28,1964, and was later towed to Mallows Bay on the Potomac and partially scrapped. Her remains are still visible today.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel displays and paintings will remain in the museum for the season to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Bridge-Tunnel.

The Cape Charles Historical Society was extremely pleased to be a part of such a timely event recognizing the people who were a pivotal part of an important era in the history of our region.

The Museum will open the last week of April and remain open until the end of November. Hours are 10-2 Monday through Friday, 10-5 Saturdays, and 1-5  Sundays. Admission is free.

Speakers inside museum

Speakers revisited history of the ferries at the museum.



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