Back when I was in sixth grade, the ferry ramp was a bunch of wooden planks bolted together. After Labor Day, the ferry no longer had a deckhand. On the weekends, John Willoughby would let me ride back and forth with him. He would direct the cars and collect the fares. I got to raise and lower the ramp. My job consisted of cranking a big brass wheel counter-clockwise to turn a worm gear that rotated a drum to let out the wire that lowered the ramp onto the deck of the ferry. Once you got it spinning, the inertia of the wheel pretty much let out just the right amount of wire.

You had to be careful that the handle that stuck out from the rim of the wheel didn’t smack the back of your hand as it came around. To raise the ramp, I would crank the wheel clockwise. Easy at first, but when the wire came up tight, you had to put some effort into it. I think that’s why John was so willing to leave it to me. The wire ran from the top of a piling on the right side of the ramp, under the ramp through a couple of fairleads, up to a pulley on the top of another piling on the left side of the ramp and then down to the winch drum.

This weekend we will be replacing the frame work that straddles the Chappy ramp. It is a far cry from the pair of pilings and brass winch of the old days. This one is a contraption of hydraulic cylinders, roller chains, counter weights, electric solenoids, relief valves and high pressure pumps and hoses. The majority of the moving parts are hidden away in a weather proof box high above the water. The structural components are stainless steel. No painting, no galvanizing, no rusting.

To raise and lower the ramp requires pushing a toggle switch up or down with one finger. It took a whole lot of equipment to replace that old brass winch. And my granddaughter has replaced me as the off-season weekend ramp operator.