Incredible sights boaters experience
A better viewpoint
As we motored under the Newport Bridge and up the east passage of Narragansett Bay early on a Tuesday morning, the tall ship appeared like an apparition out of the fog. A dull shadow at first, its form took a more defined shape with every rotation of our propellers, finally resolving into a three-mast, fully rigged ship some 200 feet long and making 11 knots right at us.
I altered course demonstrably to starboard, as a courtesy and what The Rules call for, and watched in awe as it slid past on our port side.
Of course, I had spotted it on radar first and also on AIS, which gave me its name: Oliver Hazard Perry. I’d seen it before. But it was the actual sight of this ship materializing out of the mist and not the mere knowledge of its presence that made the meeting an experience.
On this early midweek morning, the bay was cloaked in fog and devoid of other marine traffic. This is “fog country.” Reduced visibility would keep few local boats tied at their moorings as a general rule. Even so, not even the wakes of unseen, unheard boats disturbed the water. It was just us, the Perry and the fog. For a moment, as we closed in on the ship and my eyes followed the proud line of its 70-footlong bowsprit before rising to the lofty height of its masts, we were transported back in time. It could have been 1817 instead of 2017. For a moment, anyway, it took my breath away. And I’ve seen some stuff on and around the water.
Just days after crossing courses with “OHP,” as some Newport locals refer to the tall ship, a humpback whale decided to rise from the depths and breach a few yards off the bow of my personal boat, aboard which I was entertaining old friends. We were just a mile and a half off the beach. But we were in a boat, and for people in a boat, an encounter with a cetacean goes from unlikely to possible, and even on to probable if one boats during a certain season in certain places. It was, in fact, the fifth or sixth whale sighting I’d made in a month, though none at such close range, and I wasn’t even trying. Other sights this year included fireworks reflected on the water, acres of porpoises and, thanks to a mirage type known as Fata Morgana, a container ship appearing to float upside down above the horizon. Yes, indeed, boaters are afforded a vantage point unavailable to the land-bound.
You can hardly explain to the boatless just what it is that they are missing. I mean, if we were to tell them, they might believe us, but they just wouldn’t understand. Applying the most descriptive prose in the world to the sight of a swooping eagle snatching a fish; to the rapidly changing colors of sunset on the water; to a head-on meeting with a fully rigged ship; describing, in fact, any number of the incredible things boaters experience just doesn’t do it. Even pictures serve only to record and more keenly remember events for the people who were actually there. To the boatless, the images straining our smartphone’s memory might as well be gift-shop postcards.
We boaters have got it good.
Yes, indeed, boaters are afforded a vantage point unavailable to the land-bound.