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What’s In A Name: Concrete Ship Edition

Beginning this Friday, Cape May Brew Co is serving up history by the pint. We’re talking about our newest release, Concrete Ship, a rich Imperial Stout weighing in at 9.3%. It’s a layered beer with flavors of coffee, dark chocolate, and roasted malt.

So… what’s with the name?

Perhaps you’ve noticed a 3,000-ton, algae-covered, mostly-sunk vessel at the end of Cape May’s Sunset Beach. It’s not merely a slimy navigational hazard for out-of-control windsurfers – it’s the most famous World War I-era prototype of its kind.

The story begins in 1918, when the military experienced a severe steel shortage and President Woodrow Wilson ordered the construction of an emergency naval fleet comprised of 24 concrete (yes, concrete) ships. This is what kids today would call a major fail. Only 12 of the models were completed, and all proved too heavy and, therefore, too impractical, for use in war. One of them, the SS Atlantus, found new life serving as a coal steamer in New England and, later, as transport for American soldiers from Europe home. Eventually, she was sent to Virginia’s “bone yard,” a cemetery for decommissioned ships.

In 1926, the 250-foot Atlantus was purchased by a salvage company for use as the dock to a new ferry system running between Cape May and Lewes, Delaware. But before she could be moved into place, a strong gale pulled The Concrete Ship loose from her moorings. A watchman aboard waved a sheet in distress and, while he and his cat (yes, his cat) were rescued, the Atlantus ran aground 150 feet from shore. The Coast Guard attempted to move the ship using two large towropes called hawsers, but the only result was two broken hawsers.

Since then, the wreck has become a photo-op for tourists. At one point, a local company attached a billboard advertising boat insurance to the side of the ship (har har). But winds and swell have beaten against the iron barbs of her skeleton for so long, only a small portion of the stern remains visible. Now, this is the backdrop to nightly flag-lowering ceremonies that honor veterans on Sunset Beach.

Every day, people can’t help but wonder: will it ever sink completely? The answer is no, at least not from memory, at least not for CMBC fans.

We’ll see you all on Friday, when we can raise a glass of big beer to the big ship with an even bigger story.

Our guy Andrew, kegging Concrete Ship.
Our guy Andrew, kegging Concrete Ship.