Monday, August 25, 2008

Giants of the Chesapeake III

On the morning of March 9, 1999, the fishing trawler Beverley Ann II dragged her nets slow in intermittent rain. When the rain cleared, visibility on the River Tyne was 1 to 2 miles.

The skipper of the Beverly Ann II saw a large radar contact three miles out. The old equipment did not show speed or heading. The skipper turned his attention back to his nets. Rains returned, and the skipper listened to the melodic slap of the water.

Half a mile out, a huge ship emerged from the mist.

The skipper could see both sides of the hull. The point of the prow bore straight for him.

He could throttle up, but the drag of the nets would hold him back. If the ship snagged, the trawler would be pulled under.

He reversed engines.

The vehicle carrier Cypress Pass churned closer.

When the wall of steel met him, the skipper braced.

His front quarter hit, and the force turned him. The deck pitched, ramming his mast into the gigantic ship.

Down the side, his trawler passed close enough to touch. When the wake nudged him away, the immense stern rushed onward, unaware of the Beverley Ann II.

The skipper rushed below decks.

No water.

The hull held.

He hurried to the radio with his hands shaking and called for the Coast Guard to respond.

(These photos were taken during our own encounter with the Cypress Pass approaching Turkey Point in the upper Chesapeake Bay. At over 42,000 gross tons, the ship was involved in an accident other than the one I've described. During a storm on October 21, 2004 in Bremerhaven Germany, the berthed ship broke moorings and collided with the vehicle carrier Freedom. Here, the Cypress Pass enjoys calmer days. We had to chase her to get clearer pictures.)


*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

Great shots and a wonderful narration to go!Glad she escaped unscathed.

Sarah Hina said...

The enormity of the ship is hammered home by the fact that its sailors had no notion of the immense danger it posed below. Such an inequality in size and speed--felt like I was watching two unmatched animals from a nature show, and wincing for the impact. I'm relieved the skipper escaped.

Beautiful photos, Jason. Well worth the chase. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

That would be an experience to live through. Man that is a monster ship.

Bernita said...

Leviantans of the Lakes.
I really like ship names.

Aine said...

The sound of the two vehicle carriers colliding must've been awesome.

It would be fascinating to see a photo of the Beverly Ann II for comparison. I can only imagine how terrifying it would be to see that prow emerging from the mist. I remember how my heart stopped when the fog lifted that morning we were on the Delaware, years ago... :)

Vesper said...

I love ships and sea stories. Your words tell a scary one... The pictures are awesome!

Anonymous said...

Sameera, the ship can move deceptively fast. I can't imagine what's it's like having it bear down on you.

Sarah, the small fishing trawler did not show up on radar, and the lookout failed to see it. I was recently on a small river cruise ship that almost ran over a sailboat. Collisions on the water may be slow in developing, but hard to avoid once they're underway. Scary.

Charles, shortly after we took the pictures, we dropped anchor for a swim.

Bernita, there's something especially timeless about ship names.

Aine, that was certainly an eventful morning! I'll never forget realizing after moments out on the river that we were lost in the fog. Praise be to depth finders so we could hug the shore!

Vesper, thanks for the kind words about the pictures. The interplay between the water and the clouds always mesmerizes me.