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Pleasurable Passages    

  Story and Photographs by Chris Poh

Photo courtesy of The Cape May - Lewes Ferry    
Sunset from the Cape May - Lewes Ferry as seen in American Public House Review
Sunset From the Cape May - Lewes Ferry

More than a decade before the opening of the bridge and viaduct along that part of A87 that would provide a motor route from the Scottish Highlands to the Isle of Skye, a couple of then much younger and impetuous Americans reached the island by way of the auto ferry that crossed the channel between the villages of Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland and kyleakin on Skye’s eastern shore. As we approached the dock below the ruins of Castle Dunakin, my previous deliberations about damsels and dragons gave way to thoughts of those wee drams of single malt whiskey that were waiting further west at a distillery just beyond that same mountainous terrain that had given refuge to Bonnie Prince Charlie after his defeat at Culloden during the failed Jacobite insurrection of 1745.

Ruins of Castle Dunakin on the isle of Skye, Scotland as seen in American Publichouse Review
Ruins of Castle Dunakin on the isle of Skye, Scotland

Isle of Skye, Scotland as seen in American Public House Review
The Isle of Skye, Scotland

I recently revisited some of those images of that particular adventure of thirty years ago. I had forgotten those sounds and smells that are distinct to film projectors. And while I like most people enjoy the efficiency and ease of the digital age, there was something extraordinarily pleasing about handling and viewing each of those old dog-eared Ektachrome slides. Surprisingly though, there was not that normal arousal of those sensory memories that so often accompany the viewing of those captured moments from those past explorations. I could not remember the feel of the salt laced Caledonian winds against my face anymore than I could remember the smoky finish and taste of the Talisker 10 Year Old on my tongue. As is often the case with youth, there was too much time intent on the destination—and not enough time spent savoring the passage. Thankfully though, the passing years have made an extremely strong argument for taking the time to appreciate and smell the collected vapors at the top of the whiskey glass.

In the course of cataloging some of my extended sessions for American Public House Review, I’ve been blessed with some rather lazy interludes at a number of praiseworthy public houses along the coast of Delaware: namely the Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth, the Rose and Crown in Lewes, and a couple of other gems that may be included in some future accounting of travel near the shores of Cape Henlopen. With some regrets though, this over attention to indoor activities has limited my exposure to the surrounding natural beauty of this part of the Mid-Atlantic region. Fortunately, that situation was finally put right by way of a long overdue voyage aboard the Cape May – Lewes Ferry.

For years I’ve contemplated that crossing from vantage points on both sides of the Twin Capes, however, there never seemed reason enough to embark on that particular passage. But in keeping with my present view on life—one takes the ride for the sake of the ride. So on a predominately overcast morning in late May, my companion and I departed Lewes aboard the MV Delaware bound for nowhere other than a brief anchorage on the Jersey side of the bay. Our first encounter with a member of the crew was with an extremely pleasant and helpful soul, who I suspect, no matter how rough the seas or heavy the swells, could ever exemplify the nickname of “Crabby Jack.” Although, it is my understanding that his moniker is not a matter of personal disposition, but instead refers to his many years in the crab fishing industry before going to work for the ferry service in 1997.

Our self-guided tour of this sturdy and well-appointed vessel would eventually lead us to the ship’s lounge for a mid-day libation. It was there that I met Helen Mashuda, the newly trained bartender on her first solo shift, and a gentleman from California who was traveling cross-country on his motorcycle to attend his daughter’s graduation ceremony in New York. We took our drinks outside in order to get a better view of those possible occurrences that are so often a part of an excursion across this stretch of the bay. While I may have been harboring the hope of catching a glimpse of that legendary blue leviathan of the deep, or at the very least a migrating humpback—our braving of the chilled gentle rain was well rewarded with the sighting of several Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins, and a good-natured chat with our fellow sojourner from the west. 

Helen Mashuda on the Cape May Lewes Ferry as seen in American Public House Review
Helen Mashuda

Osprey aboard the Cape May Lewes Ferry as seen in American Public House Review
Osprey nesting on the wharf

At some point I excused myself from the on deck activities, and went back inside for a bit of warmth and another round. For the remainder of that first leg of the cruise, I would spend my time in conversation with Helen at the bar. I learned that she had recently returned to the states after living abroad because of her father’s work in international affairs. This insightful young woman shared her views on life and world events from a very unique perspective. And her personality and perceptions left me feeling extremely hopeful about our collective futures.

On the return trip the weather had cleared, so we spent the majority of that sail enjoying the sea air and sunshine, and the familiar call of the escorting Herring Gulls. Back in Lewes we were welcomed by a nesting Osprey atop the wharf, and another congenial bartender at the terminal’s Waterside Grill. As I watched the departing ferry once more head out across the breakaters and slip beyond the Harbor of Refuge Light, I took a long slow swallow from my pint and considered our pursuits of those perfect destinations when so often it is the journey that matters most—and that all one needs to make that journey worthwhile is a good ride, a cheerful mate, a capable captain and an exceptional bartender!         

Cape May Lewes Ferry as seen in American Public House Review

The Harbor of Refuge Light in Lewes Delaware as seen in American Public House Review
The Harbor of Refuge Light

The Harbor of Refuge Light from the Cape May Lewes Ferry as seen in American Public House Review
Another view from the ferry.

No captions needed for these next few shots

Scope on the Cape May Lewes Ferry as seen in American Public House Review

sunset from the Cape May Lewes Ferry as seen in American Public House Review

Sunset from the deck of the Cape may Lewes Ferry as seen in American Public House Review


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