One cool and sunny spring morning, Captain Elliot asked me for help to sail his old 30 foot wooden power cruiser out of Blue Hill Bay to its summer home, at a mooring in Bucks Harbor.

The trip of about 20 sea miles up Eggemoggin Reach should have taken only a couple of hours so he did not bring along his radio, ships compass, navigation maps, drinking water, food or his diabetes medication. As we worked our way out of Blue Hill Bay a wind was blowing on-shore.

Low white clouds had now obscured Long Island and as we approached our turn into Eggemoggin Reach the white clouds turned gray and sea fog enveloped us in a misty shroud so dense we barely were able to see the bow rail. I went forward to the bow deck and began listening for surf washing onto rocks.

The fog thickened and our visibility lowered to less than 20 feet. We groped along avoiding the rocks, for what seemed like hours, until the faint sound of a bell buoy could be heard. Elliot steered toward the sound, knowing that the buoy marked the entrance to the Reach.

Suddenly a bell tower appeared out of the fog and Elliot slowly approached the buoy. I stretched out prone on the forward deck with one arm hooked around the bow rail. It was my intention to slip a line through the mooring eye of the buoy. Elliot planned to reverse the engine and bring us to a stop close enough to the buoy for me to secure a line to the mooring eye.

Seas were running about three to four feet, trough to peak, making my job of getting the line through the mooring eye of the buoy seemly impossible.


With seas pitching our boat up four feet and the buoy down four feet as each wave passed, the chance I could get a line through the mooring eye seemed remote. Once Elliot had the cruiser within a few feet of the buoy he moved the engine control into reverse and the engine died.

The buoy slowly disappeared into the fog as the wind drifted us toward Swans Island and the open sea. After a while Elliot was able to restart the engine and we headed back toward the sound of the bell. As I lay on the bow deck, he slowly approached and bumped the buoy. This time I was able to get a line through the mooring eye, avoided being dragged off the deck and into the surging seas. I then secured the line to the bow cleat and returned to the rear deck.

It was late afternoon and we became aware the fog probably would not lift before nightfall.

As darkness slowly engulfed the pitching cruiser, we settled down to sleep as best we could. During the night the seas became rougher and as the cruiser pitched up at the bow, the line tethering us to the buoy would snap tight and cause the cruiser to roll onto its side. We both donned life vests assuming that the cruiser would capsize. I left the cabin and went aft onto the rear deck to spend the rest of the night hunkered down against the cabin wall.

In the grayness of dawn the fog was thinning. Without insulin Elliot was very sick and unable to operate the boat that normally required two persons. Although I had no experience operating a boat of this size it would be up to me alone to somehow get the engine started, slip our mooring and again head up the Reach toward Bucks Harbor.

As the fog thinned, a small harbor appeared at some distance from our mooring on the buoy. After starting the engine I released the mooring line and slowly steered toward the harbor. Rocks appeared everywhere as I approached the wharf. There was enough room to tie up behind a lobster boat already moored there, but because of the engine problem and no reverse, it would be necessary to stop the engine and drift up slowly to the wharf.


When close enough I jumped up onto the wharf and secured a line to a piling before the cruiser smashed into the stern of the lobster boat. Elliot lay in the cabin, ill not able to stand and unable to help. When I asked where I was, the lobstermen on the wharf said I had landed in Sunshine, Maine on Deer Isle.

With only a mind’s eye view of how to reach Bucks Harbor from there I carefully eased the boat away from the wharf, cautiously worked my way out among the rocky approach to Sunshine Harbor and into what appeared to be Eggemoggin Reach. The fog had lifted and I soon passed under the Deer Isle suspension bridge, headed home to a safe mooring in Bucks Harbor. Captain Elliot survived, but my days of cruising with him ended.

Meetinghouse is a community storytelling project hosted by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

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