‘Father, daughter’ reunited

Published 7:07 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Powhatan joins Pocahontas in Surry fleet

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

It’s been 24 years since a new boat was added to the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry fleet. 

The clock was reset Friday morning when the much-anticipated Powhatan ferry boat arrived in Surry.

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“It’s like having a baby. You work and you work and it just shows up,” said one ferry employee as the boat pulled into slip three.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The boat took nearly three years to build and took a week to chug along from the coast of Mississippi, around Florida, with one stop in Fort Lauderdale, and finally up the James River to Surry. 

The crew, who stayed on the boat for the entire voyage, was fortunate to have good weather, said Jamestown-Scotland Ferry Facilities Manager Wes Ripley. 

Crew members slept on cots and showered in a converted bathroom, but did eat well. Rodney L. Sochrane of Hampton said they dined on steak, pork chops and more, cooked on an array of grills, microwaves, hot plates and toaster ovens. 

The new ferry Powhatan was designed after the Pocahantas, the last ferry to be added to the fleet in 1995. 

The ferryboat Virginia, the oldest and smallest in the fleet at age 83, was retired and taken up to New Jersey, said Ripley.  

As the Powhatan was arriving, the Pocahontas was pulling out to take another run to Jamestown. Many on hand for the arrival took that opportunity to capture both in the same photograph. Chief Powhatan was Pocahontas’ father and both were instrumental in the settlement of the English at Jamestown in 1607. 

The Powhatan will accommodate up to 70 vehicles and includes two handicap bathrooms on the deck of the vessel. 

Like the Pocahontas, the Powhatan has Voith Schneider propellers, which work like airplane propellers, said Ripley. 

The propellers give the boat a good deal of maneuverability — it can go sideways, stop within its own length and can spin on its own axis, said Ripley, who said a video game featuring the propellers had become popular with employees. 

Because of the Voith propellers, the Pocahontas, and now the Powhatan, will be able to be used longer in windy conditions, said Ripley. 

When the Pocahontas arrived in 1995 with the Voith propellers, Ripley was immediately enamored. 

“They dropped this boat off the moon,” he joked. 

The Powhatan has a few changes from the original Pocahontas design, but it’s not anything the public would notice, said Ripley. 

Before the Powhatan can be put into service, it will require another in a series of inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as training for employees and the finalization of other details. 

Ripley estimates it will be at least two weeks before the first cars are driven onto its deck for the maiden voyage to Jamestown. 

Two other ferries complete the fleet at Jamestown-Scotland — the Williamsburg and the Surry, which hold up to 50 vehicles each. 

The Jamestown-Scotland ferry runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The ferry got its start in 1925 with the Capt. John Smith, captained by Albert Jester. The state took over operations in 1945. 

Today, it carries about 936,000 vehicles a year and is the only 24-hour state-run ferry in Virginia.  {/mprestriction}