Since we were there so often, we quickly developed a list of favorite haunts. Frozen coke on the boardwalk. Uncle Bill’s Pancakes for breakfast. George’s for the best chicken salad and most gigantic cinnamon rolls known to mankind. A trip to Sunset Beach to find shark’s teeth and “Cape May diamonds.” And a visit to the concrete ship.
When the kids and I took a day trip to Cape May last Spring, I took them to a few of those places. Some, unfortunately, were not open yet for the season. But the concrete ship at Sunset Beach? A must.
The critical shortage of steel during World War I is what prompted the building of twelve concrete ships. Originally launched in 1918, the concrete ship S.S. Atlantus actually *did* float and was used as a coal steamer. Eventually she was pulled out of commission, because her weight made her go really slow. No surprise there.
After she ceased being a “working” ship, she was brought to Cape May to be used as a loading dock for a ferry service, but her moorings broke before she could be properly placed there.
And every year, since she’s made from concrete, the Atlantus sinks deeper and deeper into the sand. It’s amazing to see just how far she’s sunk since we first started going there some 30 years ago. Wish I had pictures from back then!
It was fun to take Nick and Madeline back there to show them some of the places that I enjoyed visiting as a child. I told them about the history of the ship, and then we checked out the gift shop, which is right on the beachfront. It’s a great, inexpensive little place to stop to pick up some necessary treasures. When the weather is warmer, there is also a little grill restaurant on the opposite side of the small parking lot.
Although this beach doesn’t get much traffic in the way of sunbathers and swimmers, largely because of the gravely nature of the sand, it’s a great place to visit if you want to search for shark’s teeth, Cape May diamonds, sea glass, or seashells. Check out the concrete ship, and add a stop at the Cape May Point Lighthouse, and you have yourself a perfect little (super inexpensive) afternoon.