An Interesting Life
Working for the Steamship Authority
In 1971 I signed on-board the SS Nobska as messman. After 46 years, it was to be one of the her last years of service, being retired a scant two years later. That summer we ran from Nantucket to Woods Hole, and back again, one round trip each day. This trip took a very full day; leaving the island early in the morning, arriving at Woods Hole by mid-day, securing the vessel back in Nantucket well past dark. This image is of the sunset over the stern of the Nobska, as we head for Nantucket on a summer evening. Messman Bill Binger watches the sunset from the stern deck, where the crew could sit during the trip, (it was off limits to passengers, due to the exposed winches that were used to bring the back end of the boat into the dock). His jacket reminds me of the nip in the air even on the summer evenings off the coast of Cape Cod as the sun set.
My introduction to the waters of Vineyard Sound and Buzzard's Bay did not start until I acquired my first little powerboat, in the mid-seventies. Back then wooden catboats and bay scallops were in great abundance.
So much has changed in the waters of the Cape, and continue today. There used to be Squeteague that were found in with the bluefish, so that your catch could be one, the other or both. Back then there were no Striped Bass, to be caught.
1999-2000 Celebration in Rome
One of the truly memorable moments of my trip to Italy in 1999-2000 was New Years Mass at the Vatican. Here was the venerable and charismatic Pope John Paul, actually visible and giving mass on the first morning of the year 2000. What a start to the decade, the century and the millennium. It was so moving to see and hear this very spiritual and charismatic man, and to see the youth from the world over participate in the service. What optimism, promise and hope! What memories!
When I first learned to sail, I often needed to identify navigation buoys, ships and obstacles that were on the horizon. Field glasses/binoculars were useless, due to the narrow field of view and motion of the ship, which is amplified greatly.
What I learned was that the best way to identify objects on the water was to scan, to keep my eyes shifting. This scanning of the horizon somehow brings up anomalies, such as a buoy, that simply are not visible when staring straight ahead. What I catch are discrepancies to the monotonous horizon. I think that they are first identified through the corner of my vision, and once generally located, am able to see them with a fixed gaze. I used this technique for years without realizing it, and always surprising crewmates who had no idea how I could site objects so far away and indistinct.
The recent crash of the Malaysian airline was covered in the news, and in one report they cited that the airplane search crews were doing exactly what I had learned to do, to finding anomalies in the endless monotony of the vast Indian Ocean.
For me, before the days of GPS, sighting Cormorant Rock off Mattapoiset was my first definitive visual when crossing Buzzard’s Bay from Wood’s Hole. It was a dead north track and arrival signaled the completion of the deep water crossing.
Even with the GPS, I continue to scan the horizon, keeping visual confirmation of our location, and vessels that may have paths crossing ours…
Sailing Grounds of Vineyard Sound, Buzzard's Bay, Cape Cod and the Elizabeth Islands