Thank you, Heidi Marie

Guest perspective/Michael H. Sherwood

Editor’s note: the following is excerpted from the preface of Michael H. Sherwood’s recipe book, “Seafood is Supreme,” which outlines the best way to buy and prepare seafood. It’s a touching dedication to the men and women who, mostly anonymously, and sometimes under extreme conditions, toil in one of the world’s most dangerous professions.

On June 4, 1989, at 0715 hours, two close family friends and ex-sailboat owners, one a retired attorney and ex-U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Captain, the other a retired surgeon and a former destroyer navigator, and yours truly, were delivering my newly purchased 40-foot wooden sloop, Full Moon, from Kennebunkport, Maine to Old Saybrook, Conn.

With the exception of one day, the six-day voyage was under constant fog and rain. Thus when we departed Point Judith, R.I., on our next leg, either to Stonington, Conn. or with luck, Old Saybrook, Conn., we immediately encountered a major fog bank hanging just offshore. We estimated visibility at about 100-150 yards.

Outside of our respective backgrounds, our equipment consisted of a compass, depth sounder, a LORAN-C, radar reflector, autopilot and nautical charts.

About three hours later, after continuously sounding our foghorn and praying that the working fishing boats’ radars would pick up our reflecting signal, we heard the horn at Watch Hill, R.I. Gauging its proximity with relation to our course, we next sought Watch Hill Passage Bell “2,” southwest of the horn. Our LORAN position locator was old and off by two miles, which subsequently rendered its purpose as useless. The majority of our voyage was by dead reckoning, and under power, since we never encountered any favorable winds.

The next sound we heard was the sought-after bell – or so we thought. In actuality it was the Watch Hill Reef Gong “1” that was 550 yards south/southwest of Bell “2.” Cautiously approaching the sound, and rechecking our chart, we inched our way closer to identify the marker. At that moment, I started seeing lobster pot buoys and could pick out a very unmistakable sound. I immediately advised the helmsman to turn us 180 degrees to port. Although the reefs weren’t visible above the water, their shallow position and the rolling four-to-six-foot waves gently breaking over them made it known that we were heading toward immediate danger.

We headed easterly for a couple of minutes to gather our thoughts and reconsider our position. It was then that we realized that recent severe rainstorms had resulted in coastal flooding, which had thrown off our dead reckoning calculations by almost two hours. When we finally swung back toward the west we altered our course by 20 degrees – to the north – from our previous line. It was then that we almost ran into another marker.

At this point we changed course for a northeasterly heading, to establish a course for Fishers Island Sound heading toward Stonington Harbor. Given the circumstances and weather conditions, there was no way we were going to attempt to continue another five hours to Old Saybrook, especially not in that fog, nor those treacherous waters.

Preparing to establish our next course, we heard the warning fog signal of an approaching vessel. Listening to her engines and her estimated location, we determined that she wasn’t dragging nets – as we’d encountered with other working boats during the past three hours. This led us to note that she was a vessel headed for Stonington, home of a commercial fishing fleet. I finally caught site of her silhouette, brought out my binoculars, saw her name on her topsides, and decided to hail her for a course correction. The captain, Mark Middleton, immediately responded and said he was heading for Stonington Harbor and that he’d slow down for us. About 10 minutes later we spotted the breakwater for Stonington Harbor. I radioed the captain and expressed my obvious and profound gratitude. He replied, “Anytime, captain – glad to help out.” At 1230 hours, I logged in our arrival at a mooring, and wrote down the events that had just transpired.

A year and a half later, on November 22, 1990, I was reading the newspaper while eating breakfast. It was the “Hartford Courant” and there was a column reporting a missing fishing vessel after a vicious storm. When I read the article and came across the name of the vessel, I can only, at best, describe a cold chill overcoming me, and my eyes swelling with tears. Even writing this now, I am still emotionally caught up in this tragedy. The missing vessel was the same one that had assisted us. She was the Heidi Marie. Neither the boat nor its crew – Mark Middleton, Arthur Banks, Kenneth Raymond Gould, Michael Hare, and Ray Morris III – were ever seen again.

Michael Sherwood lives in mid-coast Maine. He was fortunate enough to have attended private schools, the Marine Corps., and business college. He eventually abandoned the corporate world for a career in the seafood industry and was thus inspired to write “Seafood is Supreme.” The book is available at Amazon, or by writing the author (capnmikey1@icloud.com).

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