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Kayla Cline lives in Surry, so when she decided early Wednesday she needed to get to a hospital to give birth to her daughter, the Cline family packed into a 1989 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer and set off for the Jamestown-Scotland ferry.
But shortly after they rolled onto the ferry ship “Williamsburg,” by this time already crossing the James River, Kayla Cline gave birth to Emmaleigh Jane Cline in the Blazer’s front seat. Her husband Jonathan Cline helped to deliver his daughter, with the assistance of a nurse who happened to be on the boat and held a flashlight during the delivery. The birth was a first for the ferry.
“It was really scary,” Kayla Cline said. “I could feel it. I was thinking ‘I’m about to have a baby on a boat.’”
And so she did. Emmaleigh Cline entered this world at 3:06 a.m., coming in at 6 pounds, 12 ounces. The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around her neck, but thanks to quick action on the part of Jonathan Cline, it was not a problem.
“I hooked it and did a can opener move twice and it slid right off,” he said.
Emmaleigh Cline was placed in the nurse’s frock and began crying right away. Jonathan Cline said he offered his baby girl a finger, and that she wrapped her tiny hand around it and squeezed. Then, she made eye contact with him and smiled.
“I knew she’d be fine [when she squeezed his finger and smiled],” he said.
The ferry docked on the James City County side a few moments later, where emergency responders were waiting to whisk the family off to Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. The baby was declared healthy after she arrived at the hospital.
The Clines praised the ferry crew for their quick response. As soon as the family arrived at the boat and informed the crew of the situation, they immediately set sail for the James City County side. The trip normally takes about 20 minutes, but the crew made it in 13.
“[Thirteen minutes] is really cooking for us,” said Wes Ripley, the Virginia Department of Transportation facility manager for the ferry service. He said that whenever a person who needs medical assistance from the Surry County side of the river boards the boat, the ship departs immediately.
Surry County does not have the medical services that are available in the Historic Triangle, so when an emergency strikes, the ship is a vital link for people who live south of the James River.
Ripley said he asked several ferry “old timers” who have been around the boat for decades if they can remember another birth aboard the ship, but none could.