Princess Anne is laid to rest off Fla. coast

May 24, 1993|By Christine Stapleton | Christine Stapleton,Contributing Writer Staff Writer Joe Nawrozki contributed to this article.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Princess Anne, one of the most expensive ferry boats built in the U.S. and which plied the Chesapeake Bay for nearly three decades, was sunk yesterday full of rust and memories as the newest addition to Palm Beach County's artificial reef.

"Ships are a lot like people," said Capt. Richard Belote, former skipper of the Princess Anne. "Some people you feel close to. Some you don't trust. I really had a love for this boat."

From 1936 until 1964, the Princess Anne made the run across the Chesapeake Bay between Cape Charles and Little Creek, Va., in less than two hours. It could carry 120 automobiles and more than 800 passengers.

"I'm glad I came," said Norma Rice, of Severna Park, who with her husband, Richard, attended the funeral of the once mighty ferry boat.

She recalled the days when the Princess Anne was the quickest way for her family to get to their vacation home in Ocean City. In those days, she said, five-mile-long lines of cars waited on the road to the ferry on Friday afternoons.

The Princess Anne made a cameo appearance in Edward R. Murrow's award-winning television documentary, "Harvest of Shame."

It was seen ferrying migrant workers across the Chesapeake on their way to northern vegetable fields.

When the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel System opened in 1964, the Princess Anne was sold to the Delaware River and Bay Authority.

In 1979, it was sold again and provided service in New York state among Fire Island, Block Island and the mainland.

Most recently, the ferry was a staging and storage area for a Middletown, R.I., ship yard.

The vessel was purchased by investors in the early 1980s for conversion to a gambling ship to operate off the U.S. coast in international waters. But financial troubles and legal entanglements led to an award of the ship to the Derecktor firm as settlement for unpaid bills.

The Palm Beach County Commission paid $175,000 for the Princess Anne, which will, over time, provide a habitat for marine life.

At 3:13 p.m. yesterday, a Navy demolition team touched off explosive charges on the ferry.

It sank two minutes later.

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