Rainy Saturdays and a Concrete Ship

This weekend my Dad joined me for a small road trip down to the Jersey Shore. My father is a minister, and when I was a child, we would often be on the road, as he visited church members across much of New Jersey. I think those experiences gave me my love of driving, which has carried over to today. When Dad would drive me around back then, he would often explain what he was doing, instilling in me not only the sense that driving was fun and a cool skill, but also the weighty responsibility of driving safely. Nowadays, Dad enjoys letting me be the chauffeur,  so after work on Friday I picked him up and we jumped on the freeway and headed south.

Photo of gray Honda Accord parked in front of Menz restaurant

First stop, Menz Restaurant in Wildwood, New Jersey. Long a favorite of my family, Menz, which opened in 1977, is known for its seafood (I’d highly recommend the crab cakes) and fun atmosphere. The family-owned and operated restaurant started off as a produce stand in the late 1920s, and has evolved into a veritable institution of South Jersey. One of the coolest events is the “Haunted Dining” that happens in October of every year, as part of the restaurant is decorated as a haunted house, where you can sit, enjoy your meal, and periodically be scared by ghosts, goblins, and witches. Last year during Haunted Dining, we had a severed hand (made of plastic, I assure you) show up in our bread basket. It’s a good time!

Photo of interior if Menz restaurant
Filled with antiques and bric-a-brac, Menz’s decorations add to the atmosphere. It was a quiet Friday night, as this is still the off-season. However, from May until September, do not bother showing up without a reservation. The place will be packed.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with my Dad’s and my plans for the weekend. However, we decided to make the best of an ugly day and took a ride to Sunset Beach in Cape May, New Jersey, to see one of the local attractions: the wreck of the SS Atlantus. Launched in 1918, the SS Atlantus was built during World War I as a transport ship. In appearance, it does not seem very different from many other transports of the era, until you learn what material was used to build the ship: concrete. Yes, you read that correctly. The ship was made of concrete. And it floated. Mostly.

Owing to steel shortages during the war, the US military began seeking alternate materials for building ships, and 12 ferrocement (reinforced concrete) ships were ordered. The Atlantus was finished after the war, but did see service for two years before being retired in 1920. The ship was going to be used to construct a ferry dock in Cape May, but it broke its moorings and ended up running aground off Sunset Beach. It was unable to be freed, and has remained in place since 1926 (via Wikipedia)

Photograph of SS Atlantus from 1926, after it had run aground
The SS Atlantus, post-beaching. Date of photo unknown.
Postcard of SS Atlantus, depicting ship after it had run aground.
Postcard of the SS Atlantus, circa 1940. For a while, a local boat insurance company painted an advertisement on the bow of the ship.
Wreck of Atlantus, viewed through car windshield.
Rainy day to visit the beach. Looking out at the water, you can see the stern of the ship. The Atlantus broke apart into three sections over the years. The stern is the only section that remains visible. The middle of the ship is completely underwater, and the bow is visible only at low tide.
Photograph of beach on cloudy day, wreck of Atlantus is background
The remains of the Atlantus.
Photo of wreck of SS Atlantus at sunset
A photo I took of the wreck at sunset several months ago.

If you are interested in learning more details of the story of this questionable engineering decision, this article from Weird N.J. provides further information. Dad and I remarked that we see less and less of the ship each time we visit, and the continuous erosion of the vessel from the waves means that someday, the ship will be completely underwater.

Our curiosity satisfied, we headed into Cape May  to do some shopping and grab an early dinner before beginning the drive back. While we both would have enjoyed another day at the shore, my Dad is a minister, so he had to return home to be ready for church tomorrow. After two days of rain and wind, we had a pleasant drive home, as the wet weather ended and the sun managed to break through the clouds.

Photo of a beach and sea, with sun appearing in cloudy sky.
Literally five minutes before leaving, the clouds cleared and we were able to see blue skies.
Photograph of river at sunset.
I managed to arrive home right before sunset.
Gray Honda Accord in front of sunset sky.
How best to photograph a dirty car? In the dark, of course.
Gray Honda Accord in front of sunset sky.
The end of a fun, if too brief, trip with my Dad.

While the weather did not cooperate, I was still very happy to spend the time with my Dad. It was also the most time he had spent in the Accord, and he remarked that it was a comfortable, sporty car, and was very well equipped for extended time on the road. I have already recommended Cape May, New Jersey in a previous post,  but should you find yourself at the shore, do yourself a favor and stop by Sunset Beach to check out the wreck of the Atlantus, climb the Cape May Lighthouse, pick up some Cape May diamonds from the beach, and watch the sun go down beneath the waves.

‘Til Next Time.

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