The Ghost of Comey Past…


August 12, 2017 — Two weeks later, after Karin has dropped off Emma in London for her College application boot camp, we are back in Cape May, reuniting with old faces (Jim Costello and Tony Leach) and welcoming on board two boating virgins: Evan Pham and his buddy Jarred.  Thach had read the cruising guide, consulted the charts, read the reviews on Active Captain and picked out various destination and back-up anchorages along the route up to New York Harbour.  His emailed float plan was instantly shot down by Training Captain John Stemke (aka Jim Comey) for being largely impractical – anchorages too shallow, narrow or otherwise treacherous.  Accordingly, the float plan was revised to include a first stop at a marina in Atlantic City — to visit a former Trump disaster site (as opposed to the current one in the White House) – for some fishing and jet skiing.  A rainy evening weather forecast led to an audible (American for last minute change) to make more headway North to Barnegat Light – described as “not very big inside” by Captain John — where Jim Costello’s cousin-in-law Vince owns a small fishing marina and could get us a deep-water T-Head dock at a neighboring marina which accommodates larger trawlers.  Vince even offers to come out and meet us at the mouth of the inlet and pilot us in with his local knowledge.  What could go wrong?  Indeed.

Barnegat Light on a Saturday evening is best described as Times Square with rapidly criss-crossing little fishing boats instead of street performers and transvestites.  Our “pilot” (armed with precious local knowledge) had decided to speed half a mile ahead to leave us guessing where the deeper water channel lay.  Using our electronic charts – which pundits will advise you are not so useful with shifting bottom conditions over time, and our depth gauges, which only tell you when you’ve run out of water depth – not before — we made our way deep into Barnegat Light inlet only to run aground just shy of our docking destination.  We were stuck on an (apparently well known) underwater mound, unable to move forwards or backwards and with the prospect of having to wait for the next high tide some 5 hours away at 11pm…

To be at the helm of a boat that has just run aground elicits all sorts of emotions – none of them good.  Quickly cycling through the stages of loss (anger, grief, denial, bargaining I think it goes), Thach settles on embarrassment.  Rookie mistakes had piled up: trying to catch up with our “pilot” we had gone in too fast, and misled by local marker buoys we had strayed off the channel on the electronic chart.  With Captain John’s (Comey) admonition of “not very big inside” ringing in his ears (like a bad Dickens novel – although Evan would tell you that “bad” is a redundant descriptor in the case of Dickens) Thach, remembering a martial arts move taught by Master Comey, swung his rudder fully over and thrust full ahead.  The ensuing prop wash nudged the stern over into deeper water and Emmanou broke free.  Free at last!  Free at last! (with apologies to MLK)

X marks the spot where Emmanou leaves the channel for a little mound riding

Real fishing trawlers inside Barnegat Light inlet

The rest of the evening was relatively uneventful, with fresh tuna steak dinner and copious alcohol to soothe frayed nerves…


3 thoughts on “The Ghost of Comey Past…”

  1. Hey Thac.
    Looks and sounds fun. Like the blog style.

    I know those emotions of running aground. We managed it in a big Beneteau in the intracoastal waterway off (wait for it) Myrtle Beach. We had to wait for the tide!

    Got the link from Davd Masson. Get him to bring his mandolin. Music on board?

    Enjoy yourselves
    John n Martine

  2. Commiserations!
    The only time I “captained” a motor cruiser, I managed to pass a marker buoy on the wrong side and ran us aground.
    No prospect of tides on Loch Ness.
    Little prospect of help from the monster.
    So it’s me over the side in my speedos and wellies (great sartorial combo to match the general humiliation situation) with a line to try to pull her round.
    Another cruiser turns up to help.
    Runs aground.
    It’s great to have company, even in misfortune…

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