Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Parade of Ships

The ferry Susan Anne stood at the dock in Orient Point, Long Island, on Friday, July 15, 2016.  She was loading the last few vehicles and passengers for the 9:00am departure for New London, Connecticut.  We had a reservation for the 10:00am sailing, but we had arrived early because of better than expected traffic.  With about an hour to spare, then, I left the car and walked down to the narrow beach by the dock and started taking pictures.  The Susan Anne glowed in the bright sunlight.  A few minutes after 9:00, she sounded her whistle and eased away from her berth.  Once clear of the pilings she backed to starboard, put her engines ahead, and set an eastward course.  On her way out, she passed the incoming Mary Ellen, the vessel we would soon board for our scheduled 10:00am departure.  As I photographed the two ferries maneuvering, it occurred to me that I just might get pictures of the entire fleet that day.  At the very least, it would be worth a try.

Aboard the now docked Mary Ellen a few minutes later, I roamed the weather decks, camera in hand, and resumed my quest.  Soon the Caribbean Ferry arrived and backed into the adjacent berth.  Then the Sea Jet came along and waited patiently for the Mary Ellen to depart.  A traffic jam on the Orient Point waterfront—three ships vying for two docks!

At 10:00am the Master of the Mary Ellen appeared on the starboard bridge wing.  Gazing upon the assembly of shipping with his hand on the propeller and rudder controls, he looked almost god-like as he surveyed the scene around him and eased the ship away from the dock.  He did in fact look every inch the fully qualified and licensed Merchant Marine officer in his black trousers, white shirt, and four gold stripes on each shoulder board.  More importantly, he displayed great professional skill as he maneuvered the Mary Ellen on her departure.  An hour and a half later, he would display even more shiphandling skill in bringing the vessel to her dock in crowded New London.  For now, though, the Mary Ellen headed east on pristine blue water toward Plum Gut as the John H came in.  Another beautiful day on the sea, in my mind the pinnacle of all Creation.

The Mary Ellen and her running mates formed the parade of ships that spent the day crossing the eastern end of Long Island Sound, carrying automobiles, trucks, and passengers between New York and New England.  In our short voyage, we witnessed the workings of the whole fleet.  Beginning then with the Susan Anne, here are the day’s portraits of the ships of the Cross Sound Ferry:

The Susan Anne prepares for departure at the dock in Orient Point.

The outbound Susan Anne meets the arriving Mary Ellen a short distance off the beach at Orient Point.

The Mary Ellen approaches the dock at Orient Point.

The diminutive Caribbean Ferry approaches the dock at Orient Point, seen from the upper deck of the much larger Mary Ellen.

The Sea Jet waits for the Mary Ellen to depart.  Then she will dock in the space just vacated.

As the Mary Ellen sails toward New London, she first passes the John H bound in the opposite direction.  Here the John H has come through the Plum Gut and is passing the Plum Gut Light.

A close-up of the Plum Gut Light.

In open water, the Cape Henlopen is the next ferry sailing toward Orient Point.

Still in open water, the New London follows on her voyage to Orient Point.
Finally, we see the Susan Anne again, leaving New London now and heading back to Orient Point.

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