Captain Courageous- – -Spending the Night on Shinnecock Bay
My story begins at the Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays on my friend Lanny’s recently purchased 27 foot Chris Craft cabin cruiser which he had christened Paper Doll. We planned on taking advantage of the beautiful July day while sea testing Paper Doll and doing some fluke fishing at a popular spot nearby.
Lanny asked me to take the wheel while he went below and finished preparing our breakfast, and that’s where this story really begins. The smell of coffee and bacon and eggs, the fresh sea air and the panoramic surreal view of the beautiful Hampton Bays’ beach and the feel of the soft blue-green waves gently caressing Paper Doll convinced me that Eastern Long Island was going to be my family’s summer playland.
I owned an 18 foot runabout at the time that was getting a little crowded for our family of five. So with my wife Barbara’s permission I visited Al Grover’s Chris Craft dealership in Freeport and told him that I wanted the exact boat that he sold my friend Lanny. He showed me Paper Doll’s twin sister, but said, “Considering that you have two small children, Laurie was 2, and Steve 3), I think you would be more comfortable in the same kind of cruiser that is two feet longer and has a convertible couch that turns into double bunks, and I can give it to you for let’s say around $500 more.” When I saw the beauty my heart and soul opened and I welcomed the new member into our family with open arms. There was no doubt that the boat would become our summer home with plenty of room for two adults, two children and Mr. Pepe our black miniature sized poodle.
I joined Lanny at Nick’s Marina and docked Alice B alongside Paper Doll. Our new home was located a stone’s throw from the Shinnecock Inlet, which was a perfect location for fishing and cruising along Eastern Long Island’s beautiful beaches.
Now comes the second part of our story. While returning from visiting friends on the Great Peconic Bay and traveling through the Shinnecock Locks into Shinnecock Bay we were shocked when the visibility immediately shrank from miles to feet when an unpredicted fog caused me to reduce Alice B’s speed to zero. Barbara immediately lowered our anchor. It was early afternoon so we figured in a short time the sun would burn off the fog and we would continue our short journey back to Nick’s Marina. We had plenty of provisions onboard and lots of games and toys for the kids so we relaxed had some lunch and enjoyed Laurie, Steve and Mr. Pepe’s company.
After a few hours had passed with no fog relief in sight, we were certain that we would have to spend the night sleeping on the hook when we heard the unmistakable sound of engines fracturing the silence of the fog. As the sound grew closer we positioned ourselves on either end of Alice B. Barbara spotted a gray shadow approaching us and immediately engaged our handheld fog horn as we both yelled at the top of our lungs. A 32 foot fly-bridge wooden cruiser appeared; I knew that our luck was going to change when the captain and mate told us that they were going to Copiague, which was many miles west of where we were, by way of the Shinnecock and the Fire Island Inlets.
I knew our day was saved as we followed the white craft very closely toward our destination. But something didn’t seem right as we followed her zigzagging route, we figured that the captain must have had some pretty sophisticated electronic equipment onboard to travel such an accurate course. So we blindly followed. Soon, Barbara howled, “Mike the sound of the water is changing, cut the engine.” I did just in time to hear the Vinny G’s engines cut out as it hit a sandbar. We weren’t seasoned sailors, but we spent enough time boating to know that when the sound of water beneath a boat changes that we are in shallow water and that a sandbar is in close proximity.
After securing our anchor I paddled our six foot dingy to Vinny G. I asked the captain what happened, he replied, “I don’t know,” I foolishly asked if he was having trouble with his navigational equipment, he said “I’m not sure, I just bought the boat and I’m not familiar with the electronics.”
I foolishly again asked, why were you zigzagging in route? He said “I was having trouble holding the compass steady in my hand.” After speaking with him for a while and shaking my head in disbelief, he told me that he had never owned a boat but thought there couldn’t be much of difference between handling a boat and car. As we were talking, I noticed he was drifting further onto the sandbar and asked him if he put out his anchor, in which he replied “no” and immediately located his anchor and threw it overboard. . . .without a rope attached.
Luckily for him, I kept a spare anchor in my dingy and handed it to him along with enough line to keep him in place until morning. I paddled back to Alice B and told Barbara that they didn’t have any provisions onboard and that one of their two batteries was dead. She made a few sandwiches and hot coffee and paddled over to their boat. When she returned she said they wanted to know if she could locate their position on their map. . . .a Mobile road map. She also noticed that the shipmate was bailing water from the boat with a bucket as they were afraid to further discharge their battery by using the bilge pumps.
In the early morning we were awakened by the sounds of seagulls singing and laughing (probably at us). They were resting on a sandbar right next to Vinny G. The captain was able to start his engines and followed us to Knick’s Marina to get fuel and provisions. I advised them to hire a licensed captain to take them through the two Inlets, which are usually not easy to navigate and could be quite dangerous, but they wouldn’t hear of it. So off they went to continue their hazardous journey. We wished them luck and exchanged phone numbers and reminded them to call us when they arrived in Copiague so they could return our anchor.
After a couple of weeks went by, Barbara called the number they gave us several times but there was no answer. So she called their marina and the dock master told us that Vinny G had arrived miraculously a few days ago. She was anxious to get the anchor back as it was her father Charley’s pride possession and a reminder of the happy days when he owned the 28 foot yellow mustard colored Lazy Bones, which many boaters thought was a hot dog stand-boat because of its color which was complemented by a large yellow Sabrett Hot Dog umbrella that protected him from the sun and made for many amusing wisecracks from other boaters. She told the dock master her tale of woe and said we were going to visit the marina hoping to find one of the guys there.
We didn’t locate either of them, but the anchor was on the bow. Throwing caution to the wind, Barbara didn’t waste any time boarding the craft and removing her Dad’s precious memento with tears of anger and joy in her eyes. We never did hear from the “would be sailors,” but evidentially the sea Gods somehow favored them as they did get to their destination safely.