Captain Melissa Velli
There are a couple of ways a person can become a captain on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. One is by graduating from a maritime academy, and another is by "hawsepiping," a term used to describe the process of working your way up through the ranks. (Fun fact: a hawsepipe is a nautical name for a strong metal pipe through which an anchor chain passes.)
After joining the Ferry on the foodservice side in 2000, Cape May's Melissa Velli took the hawsepiping route. She moved to the marine crew in 2004, accumulating the 360 days of sea time necessary to earn her certification as an Ordinary Seaman. From there, as she accrued more sea time and passed more testing, she was elevated to Able-Bodied Seaman and Mate.
As part of her preparation to take on the role of Captain, Velli earned a United States Coast Guard Inland Masters License of unlimited tonnage, and a USCG First Class Pilot upon the Delaware Bay of unlimited tonnage. She also became certified in First Aid, advanced marine firefighting, and marine radio and radar operations. She was promoted to Pilot in March of 2018, taking her first passage as Captain in June. "It wasn't an easy path to get here and it took time, but I couldn't ask for a better job," she says. "I see and learn something new every day."