Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Battle Of Point Judith

It was May 5, 1945. Adolph Hitler was dead, and the European campaign of the second World War was drawing to a close.  The Nazi government had issued a cease-fire for all U-boats patrolling the North Atlantic. German submarine U-853 never received the order.
Twelve days earlier, U-853 had fatally torpedoed PE-56, a patrol boat working off Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Only 13 of the 67 crewmembers survived*. To avoid detection, U-853 moved south and remained submerged as often as possible, with no communication. 
Meanwhile, the U.S. collier Black Point was transporting 7500 tons of coal from Norfolk to Boston. Built in 1918, the 369 foot ship had left her convoy in New York Harbor, and proceeded eastward through Long Island and Block Island Sound.  At approximately 5:40 pm, 3 miles south of Point Judith, a torpedo ripped into her stern, sending her to the bottom within minutes. Twelve crewman lost their lives.
An SOS signal was immediately sent out by the Pt Judith lightkeeper, and the Yugoslavian freighter Kamen, which had witnessed the explosion. The anti-submarine warships USS Ericsson, Amick, Atherton, and Moberly had just left New York, bound for Charleston, and were redirected to Pt Judith. On the morning of May 6, two blimps arrived from Lakehurst, New Jersey to assist in the pursuit.
After a 16 hour attack of hedgehogs and depth charges, a liferaft, chart table and officers cap floated to the surface, seven miles east of Block Island.
The wreck sits in 130 feet of water, with its periscope still extended, and the remains of the 55 crewmembers  aboard.
On May 7, less than 48 hours after the sinking of the Black Point, Germany surrendered. 

Ralph DiCarpio: Battle Of Pt Judith (well researched)
Providence Journal: Nazi Sub Sunk Off Block Island
Providence Journal: Vets Honor Merchant Ship Crew
Wreckhunter (go to Wrecks Of Rhode Island)
AquaExplorers: U-853 & Black Point
Wikipedia: Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1945

* The sinking of PE-56 is an entire story unto itself. For decades, the US Navy denied that she had been torpedoed. Only in 2001 were the crewmembers awarded Purple Hearts.
Boston Globe: The Truth About PE-56

photo credits: USS Moberly launching hedgehogs (top) Wikipedia
U-Boat 853 (middle) AquaExplorers
USS Black Point (bottom) Ahoy-Mac's Weblog

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Back From Cuba II

Here are some more photos of the Amistad in New London. I have been taking many of my photos early in the morning recently, with good results. Yesterday however, there was fog, and it was not the spooky, mysterious, and photogenic kind. Instead, it was  just a heavy haze that burned off later. These are not my best pictures, but the Amistad is  attractive  enough that I decided to post them regardless.
One of these days, it would be nice to catch her under sail, with clear skies. 

Soundbounder: Back From Cuba I

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Back From Cuba

While some of us motored down a river and through a drawbridge to reach our summer destination, there are other vessels that have returned from much more distant harbors. The Amistad docked in New London on Thursday after an eight month, 4,000 mile journey to Cuba this year. That certainly puts things in perspective.

Today,   free tours of the ship are available, as well as an exhibit at the New London Customs House Museum.

Customs House Museum: Revolt To Freedom 
Provenance Center: List Of Events
Amistad: Website
Soundbounder: Amistad In Noank (2008)
Soundbounder: Back From Cuba II (more photos)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

An Occurrence At Old Lyme Bridge

No matter what the calendar and thermometer may read, it is the Old Lyme Railroad Bridge that marks my seasons . When I sail north of this span in November, the bridge closes behind me, and my winter begins.
For the past several years, Carina has spent her winter months in a boatyard a few miles above this bridge. I still sail her occasionally in late fall and early spring, but always north of the span. Until I venture to the other side, it all seems like an exhibition game to me. It doesn't really count. 
This 1907, truss-style, bascule bridge is my Checkpoint Charlie; my San Ysidro. Passing beneath her is my spring and autumnal equinox.

There is something that feels very unnatural when a boat passes under a bridge. The charts and signs all show that there is plenty of clearance, but I still find myself second guessing the dimensions. I envision the mast being too tall, hitting the bridge, and then falling down. If only Freud were aboard to diagnose and explain my  mast-envy, and dismasting anxiety.

But there are no mishaps, and the bridge operator gives me a wave as I clear the opening. I turn to wave back and immediately realize that I am south of the bridge. "See you in November" I yell to him.

Ahead of me I can see the two lighthouses at Saybrook Point, and I smell the salt water in the breeze. A small wave rolls in from the Sound and smacks the hull broadside, spraying my face lightly. It's a brisk and salty reminder that Carina has been released from her winter stall, and is now free to roam in what F. Scott Fitzgerald called "the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound". 

Soundbounder: November
Soundbounder: Ferry Landing Park

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sea Otter IV

While most boats are launched in the spring, there are a few that get hauled out instead. Like many fishing and commercial boats, Sea Otter IV stays in the water all winter. Once the spring rush of launching boats begins to subside, she gets hauled to have her bottom cleaned and painted. Within a few days, she is back in the water, and as good as new.
Commonly known as a short haul, a boat will come out of the water for anywhere from a few hours, to a week or two, depending on how much work there is to be done.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Indian River

Indian River, Clinton, April 2010

CT Coastal Access Guide: Clinton Landing

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fair Winds, Nantucket Lightship

Some of you may remember a story I wrote last year about the Nantucket Lightship. I am happy to report that on Monday, May 10, she departed Jacobson Pier in Oyster Bay, and is presently bound for Boston to become a museum. Her days of floating in limbo appear to be over. I must admit, as pleased as I am that the lightship will be saved, there is a little part of me that is sad to see her go.
Lori at Jarvis House has put together an excellent photo essay of  the departure.

Tugster: LV-112 Moves

photo credit: Jarvis House blogspot

Friday, May 7, 2010

The 7:05 Out Of Noank

Officially, Fishers Island belongs to the State of New York. It's shortest distance to the mainland however is with Rhode Island. It has a Connecticut zip-code, an east end of Long Island area-code, and views of Block Island. To reach the island, one must take a ferry from New London (there is a small airport too).
Most of Fishers Island is private and residential. As you may have already guessed, it is also very expensive. Much of the work that takes place here is performed by off-island residents. The girl at the pharmacy, the landscaper, and the electrician are often residents of southeastern Connecticut who commute here daily. That's where Baby Doll comes in.
Along with one other boat that I am aware of, Baby Doll departs Noank twice each morning and ferries workers to West Harbor on Fishers Island. In the afternoon, she does it all again and returns them home.
Sure beats the Cross Bronx Expressway!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Northport Village Pier

A friend of mine considers Northport  to be the nicest harbor on Long Island Sound. I wouldn't go that far, but I can certainly understand why he would make such a claim. It has a lot of positive attributes: a fjord-like harbor that is well protected; a walkable village ; and a waterfront park with this attractive pier.

There has been a public dock here since the early 19th century, but by 1920, it had fallen into decay along with much of the surrounding waterfront. It was at this time that the village purchased the land to form the waterfront park that exists today. 

Northport Village Dock: Snow Photos 
JoAnn Corretti Painting Gallery: Northport Village Dock