LOWER TOWNSHIP - A Cape May-Lewes Ferry vessel and its 35 passengers were temporarily stranded on a sand bar Thursday night after the MV New Jersey ran aground at the mouth of the Cape May Canal.

Nobody was hurt and the ferry vessel, which became unstuck with the incoming tide, was not damaged, according Delaware River & Bay Authority spokesman Jim Salmon.

The ferry boat left Delaware at 7:45 p.m. and was scheduled to dock here in North Cape May at 9:15 p.m. Salmon said it grounded at 9:08 p.m. just as it entered the Cape May Canal on the Higbee Beach side.

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"We had blow-out tide conditions from hard northwest winds and a new moon. The biggest thing is nobody was hurt. Obviously, you're not at top speed because you're entering the canal," Salmon said.

The grounding happened just a few minutes before low tide. As the tide came back the ferry was able to get off the sandbar. The 35 passengers taking the last crossing of the day finally disembarked at about 11 p.m.

Salmon said the passengers were given complimentary beverages during the delay and are being contacted to offer them a free pass to use the ferry in the future.

The MV New Jersey has a draft of just seven feet, which is not very deep. The ferries are specially designed not to need much depth, because of the relative shallowness of the Delaware Bay.

Salmon said dredging of the canal is done every year by the U.S. Army of Engineers and it was done in the spring. Northwest winds blow water out of the Delaware Bay and there were strong winds from the northwest on Thursday night. The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the grounding.

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