Sergio Cilla is introducing Tales of the Chesapeake, a collection of short stories that will certainly lead to reflection. Today, Christmas on the Princess Anne Ferry, and a shout for help.
Christmas on the Princess Anne Ferry
It was the Christmas day of 1936, six months after the Princess Anne had entered service, which had been recorded by the Nautical Gazette with the “The Svelte Princess Anne Makes Her Debut” headline. The ship connected Virginia Beach with Cape Charles, on the Eastern shore of Virginia.
Everyone on board was proud of her. The crew, because she was considered one of the largest motor transports in the world; the passengers, because she had been described as an “ultra-modern” ship.
Everyone but Billy, whose mind was somewhere else that day.
Billy was that rare breed of people who would spend hours reading about a particular subject, and would become so obsessed with the topic, that they would believe they were part of the story.
King Edward VIII had abdicated two weeks before that exact Friday, and Billy had not been able to put up with the news. He loved the monarchy, and he had read and researched so much about Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David that he even felt he was sort of a king himself.
That was a gloomy Christmas day, and it was the last boat ride taking passengers from one side to the other of the Chesapeake Bay, most of them probably joining their families to celebrate.
Billy was steering the boat on the direction to Norfolk, where his family was waiting for him for the Christmas dinner. He was the captain of that magnificent new ship, but he suddenly felt he had to abdicate himself.
The boat started making abrupt turns, and the passengers began reacting in total panic. Roy, one of the deck officers, immediately climbed the ladder to the main bridge, and saw the captain talking to himself, and turning the wheel rapidly from one side to the other. He suddenly realized there was something wrong, when he heard Billy say: “I could have given up as well, but I continued steering this boat… why couldn’t you?”, acting with wretchedness and desolation.
The officer held Billy and the wheel firmly at the same time, regaining control of the boat, and hearing the passengers sigh with relief.
“Thank you, Roy, I think it’s time to retire,” said the captain with tears in his eyes. “You’re welcome, Your Majesty…” replied the officer with a very warm and sweet smile, “…and Merry Christmas!”