Cape May-Lewes Ferry Capt. Robert Vance grew up in North Wildwood, where his grandfather and uncle ran party boats.

“I worked with them from the time I was 10,” said Vance, 53. “I loved being on the water.”

He thought about studying marine biology but was discouraged by a guidance counselor at Wildwood High School. So in his senior year, he went to the Marine Occupational program at the Cape May County Technical High School.

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“Hans Toft made everything fun,” Vance said of the teacher who ran the program. Toft taught everything from scuba diving to muskrat trapping to hardshell-clam harvesting, he said.

Vance graduated in 1977, tried clamming, then was a commercial fisherman for five years on scallop and clam boats.

That’s when he realized he had plenty of documented sea time and could get the merchant marine papers needed to work toward being a captain. He got an entry level job with the ferry, starting with parking cars and maintenance.

Six years later, after passing tests for a series of licenses, he could captain a ship of any tonnage on inland waters from the Brandywine River to the sea. He’s been a ferry captain for 22 years and makes two round-trip crossings, five days a week.

“I have always been very thankful everything worked out,” he said. “It’s about doing the best you can.”

Vance was honored as the Cape May County Technical High School Successful Graduate for 2012.

Blueberries for gala

On Monday Bob Donio, co-owner of Hammonton’s Frank Donio, Inc., donated several flats of fresh blueberries from his growers in Chile to Chef Joe Massaglia, owner of Mama Mia’s Ristorante in Seaville, for his Hammonton Blueberry-Parmesan Risotto.

Massaglia will make the dish at the 30th Anniversary Atlantic Cape Restaurant Gala, 6:30 p.m., March 14 at Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino. Since 1984, the event has raised nearly $3 million for Atlantic Cape Community College scholarships.

Saves for a cause

Cameron Carmen,10, of Egg Harbor Township, lost his grandfather to Alzheimer’s disease and wanted to combat it. The Atlantic City Sharks hockey goalie took pledges for every save he made this season. He has $1,825 in pledges, said his dad, Matt Carmen.

Cameron plays at the Squirt Level, and is coached by former Boardwalk Bullies star Stefan Rivard. His team ended the season 10-10. Cameron had 377 total saves and three shutouts. Visit:!/MakingSavesForAlzheimers.

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