Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Middle Fleet

The three ships of The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company daily cross the middle of Long Island Sound.  About midway along their route they pass the prominent Stratford Shoal Light, an important navigational aid built on a rock amid otherwise fairly deep water.  The line’s terminals in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Port Jefferson, Long Island, provide convenient access to railroad stations.  Thus, I can travel by train from Boston to Bridgeport, enjoy an interlude at sea aboard the ferry, and then continue the rail journey to the family headquarters on Long Island.  The docks are not as conveniently situated for automobile access, at least for a family driving from New Hampshire.  For this reason, then, the Bridgeport ferry has served as a secondary route for us over the years.  Nonetheless, the several voyages we have taken with it have all been very pleasant and enjoyable occasions.

Nostalgic, too.  I had traveled these mid-sound waters in the summer of 1977 as an apprentice aboard the tugboat Charger.  She had routinely hauled the gasoline barge Interstate 35 past the Stratford Shoal Light to New Haven, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island.  These and other vessels have all come and gone, but the lighthouse remains constant, standing as a mute witness to maritime history.  If the light could talk, what tales it would tell us!

Over several years, I have produced an amateur photographic record of maritime history when sailing with the mid-sound fleet, and sometimes, when just watching the ships from shore.  From this modest collection I have selected a dozen of my favorites:

Our two oldest children aboard the southbound Grand Republic on Sunday afternoon, August 8, 1993.  This vessel sailed between Bridgeport and Port Jefferson for 20 years.  In 2003 she was sold and became the Mary Ellen on the New London to Orient Point route.
The Park City is maneuvering into her berth in Bridgeport on Wednesday, August 25, 2010, in a light rain under a ceiling of nimbostratus clouds.  This view is from the elevated railroad station in Bridgeport, five minutes' walk from the ferry terminal.

The new Grand Republic arrives in Port Jefferson on Friday, August 27, 2010.
A close-up of the bridge of the new Grand Republic as she glides past us on the same arrival.
The pilot house of the Park City as she heads south from Bridgeport on Monday, September 16, 2013.

Ships that meet at sea.  From the southbound Park City we see the Grand Republic pass the Stratford Shoal Light on her way north to Bridgeport.

As the Park City approaches the dock in Port Jefferson we see the P.T. Barnum moored to the opposite side of the pier.  A maintenance crew is scaling her vehicle decks.

A view of the serene water of Long Island Sound.  We are looking eastward from the southbound P.T. Barnum on Tuesday, May 27, 2014.
From the P.T. Barnum we watch as the Park City passes by on her northbound voyage.
Following my disembarkation in Port Jefferson, the P.T. Barnum unloads vehicles.  The cars waiting in line will then board the ship for the next voyage to Bridgeport.

From the southbound Grand Republic, we see the Stratford Shoal Lighthouse on Tuesday, September 7, 2014.
The northbound Park City passes by to starboard.  This is unusual.  Mostly the ferries pass port side to port side, but the Grand Republic sailed more to the east than is customary in order to avoid a westbound tug and barge.

Finally, the view from the stern of the Grand Republic.  A peaceful place to rest and enjoy the beauty of the sea and sky and contemplate the majesty of Creation.

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