Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Good Crossing

Scotland Neck Landing, 2003

In these day of stressed public budgets, there aren’t many free thrills left in public services. In Virginia, though, there is one transportation service that’s still toll-free and a great ride.

It’s the Jamestown Ferry, which crosses the James River from—you guessed it—Jamestown on the north side of the river to Scotland Neck, in Surrey County on the south side of the river.

The ride takes about 45 minutes because the route takes you up and down the river a ways, depending on which direction you’re going, rather than straight across.

But that just adds to the fun. The James River’s pretty muddy looking this far inland. But there’s almost always a breeze.

Pocahontas, 2003

When my daughter attended the College of William & Mary, it was 64 miles from our house to her dorm. In good traffic you could make that trip in an hour. But when the gods of traffic were snarling at you, that drive could take as long as five hours.

After having one of those five-hour slogs—which, if you do your math, will work out to just under 12 miles an hour—I pledged never to do that again and instead started taking the decidedly less fashionable and mostly rural route home along the south side of the James River. It took longer than the one-hour trip you might occasionally experience on the interstate highway that is the primary route between central Virginia and the coast. But it would never take five hours and, best of all, the trip began with a crossing on the Jamestown Ferry. What better way to adjust one’s mood on a day of hectic traffic?

In 2003 I decided to do a little photo essay on the Jamestown Ferry. I wasn’t very experienced as a photo essayist. But it was a good place to learn. Besides, the ferry was free and if the traffic was light I could sometimes drive off the ferry at the end of one crossing and turn around and get back on the same ferry for the return crossing.

But even if I couldn’t do that I could sit on the beach at Scotland Neck and watch the birds and enjoy the breeze.

Ferry Life, 2003


  1. Oh, wonderful! I've never met a ferry I didn't love. We used to take the Staten Island ferry all the time, and in Seattle, I absolutely love those ferry rides over to the Olympic peninsula and on up to Vancouver island. I could do that all day long and never get tired of it.

  2. You've given me a great idea for a little photo excursion when we go home next month. Thanks, Chris!

    BTW: I worked second shift (4-midnight) at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock for a couple of years in the mid 80s and know the aggravations of traveling I-64 all too well!