What you see when you can’t

Published on March 30th, 2021

Avoiding collision requires visibility which is hard in the fog, and once was a whole lot harder before pinpoint navigation tools. But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and provides good stories… here’s a couple of them:

From Edward Cesare:
As a young sailor I participated in Mystic Seaport’s BRILLIANT program. This involves a week long cruise aboard the Seaport’s schooner of the same name. Designed by Sparkman and Stevens and built by and for Brigs Cunningham, BRILLIANT is spectacular in every way.

We were doing an overnight passage – I forget from where to where – and were transiting Block Island Sound in thick fog. BRILLIANT had a hand pump powered box fog horn and watch standers were obliged to activate it at the appropriate intervals. I was said watch stander in the middle of that night.

We were sailing along with a fair turn of speed in near zero visibility when all of a sudden we emerged from the fog bank into perfectly clear conditions. I suppose it was the contrast and a young person’s perspective but I will NEVER forget how many stars immediately filled the sky. It literally took my breath away and I remember that moment like it was yesterday.

From Christina Good; New Hampshire:
I was a young high school student and a member of the Woods Hole Yacht Club (Massachusetts) more than 50 years ago. We raced in Knockabouts, and I was usually handling the jib on the races. One time while racing out along the Elizabeth Islands towards Cuttyhunk, a thick, wet fog rolled in while sailing close to shore on the Vineyard Sound side of the islands.

I spent the entire time lying down before the mast scanning for rocks, of which there were many (and there was not much wind). One group of large rocks in particular showed itself slightly to port at most 10 feet from the bow. We had to scramble to avoid them.

I wonder how we got back to the harbor as the fog never lifted that day. I also wonder if my parents knew about the fog conditions as I doubt I would have been allowed to race again after that fog-enshrouded day.

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