Mosey On has made it to Maine! The Maine of rocky shorelines, tall green pine, lobster pots beyond number and, of course, fog. We left Portsmouth, NH toward the end of an ebb tide bound for Portland, ME (a passage planned for about 7 hours at Moseyin’ speed). The day was fair, the seas small and we looked to be comfortably anchored in an island cove in Casco Bay with a view of Portland by late afternoon. But as often happens in Maine this time of year, the air temperature was fast approaching the dew point along the coast. About halfway to Portland, abeam Biddeford Pool, the visibility dropped from several miles to perhaps 1/8th of a mile in the span of a few minutes. We lit up both of our radars, activated our fog horn, slowed down (a relative term), and the crew went on high alert to avoid entanglement with the ever-present lobster pots and any sign of other marine traffic. We knew where we were by means of our electronics. We had to focus on our radar to give us some warning of other boats. But small vessels and/or those made of wood are more difficult to discern on our radar. So we stared into the enveloping gloom for a shadow or hint of movement in our path. We had to trust that other mariners were doing likewise.
As the fog showed no signs of abating, and at our slowed speed, we realized that we would be arriving in the islands off Portland after dark. Finding a safe anchorage in a little cove in the dark would be tough. With the fog, we thought it foolhardy and so plotted a course for Portland’s inner harbor where we might find a safe mooring in a marina. The challenge would be to navigate safely among the considerable commercial traffic working this busy port. Like all ports, the safest approaches are well marked with buoys port and starboard to funnel the traffic in or out. We picked out the pair of entrance buoys on the radar and aligned our approach up the channel towards Portland. A tall red sea buoy ghosted past our starboard side. We never saw its paired buoy to port. Within a few minutes, radar indicated a substantial vessel fast approaching from the stern. Shortly thereafter, a 60’ whale watch tourist boat roared past to port…..more evident by the sound of its engines than its ghostly profile 150’ away. Mosey continued on as the evening grew darker with no sign of the lights of Portland. Darkness would compound our difficulties avoiding a collision.
Then, across the radio, came a call with which I was totally familiar, but had never heard before on the water. “Security Call. This is Odyssey. We are at the Jordan Reef buoy, proceeding to the Delta (D) buoy, inbound to Portland. We are monitoring (channel) 16 and 13 for any concerned traffic. Odyssey standing-by.” This was the form of an aviation positon report used by pilots where radar coverage to provide aircraft separation by a controlling agency is not available. It was broadcast on the frequency we boaters are required to monitor at all times. There was no agency managing marine traffic entering Portland harbor and now we all knew where Odyssey was, her course up the channel, and her ultimate destination. It was clear, simple, useful…..in my eyes, a terrific call by Odyssey’s captain. I immediately understood that Mosey On was approximately ¼ mile astern and on the same course. As we proceeded up the channel passing “Jordan Reef”, “Delta”, and subsequent buoys we echoed Odyssey and gave our own updated position reports. Other vessels then chimed-in giving notice of their identifiable positions and intentions. Those mariners who may have chosen to remain silent in the fog at least knew where we were! The electronic aids are marvelous for those who have and know how to use them. But the verbal positon report was a positive confirmation of a boat’s position and direction for anyone with a chart or familiarity with the buoy system.
Mosey On made it safely to her mooring due, in part, to the good seamanship of Odyssey and the many other unseen boats and crews that spooky night.
Moseyin’ (Carefully) Along