Gone Fishin' : Family fishing outing becomes close encounter
Even on the calmest days there is always an element of danger out on the water. For the most cautious boater or the most experienced, sometimes the difference between a close call and tragedy comes down to a little bit of luck.
For Alley Moore, out fishing with his two young daughters in a 19-foot Mako, and commercial fisherman Francis "Sandy" Fisher Sr. and two crewmen aboard a 25-foot Sea Hawk, luck was a matter of a few feet and a few degrees of angle.
Last Saturday, the wind dropped and the rain stopped. It was a beautiful day to be out on the water. Tom Robinson and I fished Middle Ground on the rising tide in the morning. Squid pursued by striped bass were popping out of the water, providing plenty of visual excitement and occasional hookups.
The water was flat calm, and the sun broke through the clouds and haze with enough regularity to mock the weatherman.
Later in the day, we went looking for the sea bass. I pressed Tom to fish in the channel off West Chop, something he was reluctant to do because of boat traffic. I told him not to worry because it was calm, and other boats could clearly see us.
When I got home, my wife said Alley Moore, a friend and frequent fishing and hunting partner, had called with a harrowing tale. His story is a cautionary for all fishermen that the unexpected can occur at any time on the calmest days and in the most familiar waters.
The report Alley filed with Edgartown harbormaster Charlie Blair for the Massachusetts Environmental Police tells his side of the story:
"On Saturday, June 20, at approximately 3 pm, my two daughters, Emily, age 10, and Nina, age 6 and I were out fishing in our 17-foot Mako center console about 2 miles due east of Big Bridge off State Beach, Edgartown.
"We started to troll as we headed home to Oak Bluffs. Emily immediately hooked a large bluefish, and spent 10 minutes reeling it in. I noticed a commercial fishing boat pulling pots about a quarter mile away. There were no other boats around. Visibility was excellent and the wind was light. Our engine was turned off, and we were drifting while the bluefish was landed. Once the bluefish was in the boat, Emily asked if I could take a photograph of her with the fish. As I was looking for the camera, I noticed that the commercial boat was up and running on plane at a high rate of speed. It was about 100 yards away and coming straight at us. We were perpendicular to each other.