By Mike Busch
Following up on the story posted Friday about the F/V Alicia J in the Ice off Sayville, Captain and Owner Jeffrey Kraus reached out to me to fill in blanks in our coverage. I regret using the word abandoned, unfortunately at press time I couldn’t find out any other information. Captain Jeff was nice enough to explain the entire situation from his perspective that fortunately has a good ending.
Alisha J was indeed hard aground. After running aground at peak high water upon arrival Wednesday afternoon, my crewman Anthony was put ashore by Suffolk Marine patrol. I overnighted aboard to insure her safety, and assess my options in the morning. Coast Guard and Suffolk Marine Bureau were notified at onset of my grounding. Alisha J was never “abandoned.” Considering she was hard aground, and the extreme low tides due to a combination of astronomical low tides and strong westerlies not allowing rising water to reach normal levels, attempts were made by myself at each high tide to move her, however they were futile. There was no need to anchor her. I was making exact measurements of water level heights at high water to determine whether the Alisha J would float. The tides just weren’t coming back enough. Friday night’s high tide was the first tide that showed water returning to normal levels, as the wind was abating. It was, however, not enough to float Alisha J.
Considering that the Saturday morning high tide was predicted to be .4 feet higher than the Friday night high tide, I knew Saturday morning was my best shot at getting her to the dock. Unfortunately the continuing frigid temperatures were creating a barrier with the growing and thickening surface ice. Suffolk Marine patrol was iced in, and wouldn’t be able to reach me to transport me to the boat. Shellfish marina, where I was heading, was experiencing problems with their small boat, and couldn’t be depended on for transport to the boat, even if the ice was capable of being pushed through to get there. Fortunately, I had made contact with the owner of West Sayville marina, and Mark kindly offered to come and meet me at 7am Saturday and try to break through the ice and get me to the boat. I packed food and necessities to stay aboard thru Monday. Astronomical tides would be increasingly higher each morning (adding 21/2″ of water) each morning cycle. If I couldn’t move her Saturday am, I would be aboard for the Sunday and Monday high tides, and wouldn’t be at the mercy of the ice. Fortunately, there was enough water Saturday morning for me to push her over the bottom, scraping the barnacles off her keel as her 52″wheel pushed her to the dock. The 2 day stay aboard wasn’t necessary.
My efforts to reach Shellfish marina from my slip in Shinnecock were made last Wednesday with full knowledge of the low tidal situation, and the understanding that the frigid temperatures would lead to the bay freezing over within days. It was a race against time. We were only a couple of inches of having enough water to make the final 900 feet on our arrival Wednesday evening.I draw a little over 7′. We wouldn’t of had enough water to even make the transit thru the bay Thursday, and by Friday, the south side of the bay was freezing over, and would have kept us from the ability to make that transit. I appreciate the efforts of the Suffolk marine patrol boat and crew for ferrying me back and forth to and from the boat for a number of high tide cycles. I also appreciate the Coast Guard (station New Haven, and Fire Island) for the information and efforts to provide me a safe scenario while grounded. I’d also like to thank Charley Hart for the effort to free Alisha J with his overheating vessel Friday nite. And finally, I’d like to thank Mark from West Sayville marina for coming down an hour early today to break ice with his boat and get me to the Alisha J, allowing me to push my way to the marina, where she can now rest safely for the winter.
The difficult conditions encountered right from the get go made for a difficult scenario, which needed to be dealt with on a tide by tide basis. My feeling is that the decisions made were calculated, and done with a full understanding of the options, which were often quite limited. I never felt the boat was in a hazardous position, or presented a hazard to anyone else. The forces of nature, especially in a nautical environment, often create situations which can appear much different to an outside perspective, especially to persons unfamiliar with that world. Unfortunately, the general public often looks at professional mariners with a skeptical view, quickly coming to negative judgement of their decisions. I’m comfortable with the decisions that I made, and the Coast Guard has been very positive with their comments regarding those decisions. The end result is that, despite taking longer then planned, the Alisha J is safely tied up in her intended destination, and no one, or the Alisha J, is worse off for the wear.
Regards, Jeff Kraus owner/captain F/V Alisha J
The photos below were taken Sunday morning 12/31/17