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A remarkably unremarkable event, part 2

Peter Lewis

This week Bob concludes his account of the stranding of a large fishing boat on the Outer Beach last month. Find the first part HERE.

Standing in a clump beside the stranded vessel were a half-dozen or so Coast Guard and National Seashore officials. They were speculating idly about why the ship had stranded, the way that any group of guys will gather around a stalled car or a lawnmower, sharing theories about what had gone wrong. One of the Seashore officials told me that the boat was the Miss Megan out of New Bedford. (I was tempted to ask if the rescuing tugboat was the Prince Harry, but didn’t.) A Coast Guardsman said they were there to make sure there were no oil leaks from the boat, there didn’t appear to be any. The ship, he said, had harvested nearly a full load of sea clams. The captain had decided to make one more run before heading home, but their nets got entangled in some abandoned net gear, leaving them dead in the water at the mercy of the wind and tide.

In the tumbling surf I could see a hawser – a thick green rope - running in a parabolic curve from the fishing boat out towards the tug. There was a young man, in his 20s, taking off a wet suit. He told us that he had paddled out to the tugboat, where he took one end of the hawser and then paddled back to the beach where it was attached to the stern of the fishing boat. It seemed not only a remarkably bold feat, but a notably non-technological one.

It was now 4:30, and the light was beginning to go. One of the crew estimated it would be another hour before they could refloat the vessel, so we turned and, with most of the other spectators, headed back to the parking lot.

In retrospect, the most remarkable thing about the event was how unremarkable it was regarded, especially by the media. The next edition of our local weekly newspaper contained no mention of it. The New Bedford radio station WBSM treated it whimsically, headlining their story, “FISHING VESSEL FOUND ‘TAKING A VACATION” ON CAPE COD BEACH.” Postings on the Internet were few and short. No doubt some of the lack of media coverage was due to the fact that no lives were lost and there was no apparent environmental damage. In other words, the event, however visually dramatic, was not really news.

And yet, those of us who had made the trek out to the stranded vessel had the sense, not only that we had witnessed something fundamental to the history of the Cape, but that we had been granted that rare experience of standing, safely, at the edge of one of the universe’s primal forces – or, as Kathy more succinctly put it: “We love the things that can’t quite hurt us.”

A nature writer living in Wellfleet, Robert Finch has written about Cape Cod for more than forty years. He is the author of nine books of essays. A Cape Cod Notebook airs weekly on WCAI, the NPR station for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the South Coast. In both 2006 and 2013, the series won the New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.