To the Editor:
I feel especially empathetic for the captain of the sailing schooner American Eagle carrying 25 passengers and a crew of five when it went aground on Sand Point in Somes Sound on Aug. 2, as reported in the Islander.
My compassion arises from having had a similar incident recently as I was travelling in my 17-foot Boston Whaler Ishmael from its mooring in Somes Harbor to the Islesford Dock on Little Cranberry Island.
Fortunately, I had no passengers or other crew on board.
It was several weeks ago on a beautiful afternoon when I set out to bring my wife, Chris, back home from Islesford where she was working in the pottery on the Islesford dock. Our plan was for me to pick her up at the dock at 4 p.m. As I approached the harbor at Islesford, I was silently congratulating myself on being right on time. As I got closer to the Islesford dock, I sounded my air horn to let Chris know of my impending arrival. I had some difficulty in locating the horn but soon found it and made my approach known with several blasts.
She saw the boat, heard the sound and responded by waving at me as I was approaching. Other people on the shore also waved back. The boat was running slowly but a few seconds later, disaster struck as the prop suddenly hit some barely submerged rocks and the motor stalled out.
Stunned, I looked down into the water surrounding Ishmael and saw hundreds of rocks a lot closer to the surface than I had ever seen before!
There are three green can buoys that mark the approach to the dock, and I passed the second, crucial can on the wrong side, apparently as the result of my distraction in searching for the horn.
My sudden stop puzzled my wife as well as the other curious folks watching from the shore. After a few embarrassing seconds, I tilted the motor up a bit, got it restarted and putted very slowly toward the dock. Once securely tied up, I was able to inspect the propeller.
It turns out it was badly damaged. We had to motor back to Somes Harbor at a very decorous speed of no more than 5 knots. My wife was not amused when I suggested that this slow return would be a good time for us both to practice meditation. It took us an hour and a half to make the usually 30-minute trip back.
The next day, a technician from Bowden Marine came up and replaced the damaged propeller. The prop now hangs in my garage, a constant reminder of the imperative of any boat captain to pay attention to all the aids to navigation.