Sunday, November 14, 2010
Close Encouter: Windsufer vs. the Coast Guard
Before I ended up photographing windsurfers at the Stratford (Connecticut) seawall, I had driven over to the nearby airport to see if I could catch a glimpse of President Obama, who was in town to hold an election rally at Harbor Yard Arena in Bridgeport. And I actually did get a quick glimpse of him whizzing by in his motorcade (I'll run one of those photos later in the week). While I was driving down what we call the Burma Road that runs through the Great Meadows marshland (part of the Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge), I noticed a Coast Guard boat in the marsh at the foot of the main runway--obviously there to protect the President. There were also five big Chinook helicopters on the runway, so I knew that the Prez had landed and was either at the airport or enroute to Bridgeport.
Anyway, an hour or so later, I did catch a glimpse of Obama's limo and motorcade as it sped back to the airport. Funny, it was just me and a half dozen kids from a nearby neighborhood standing on the corner where we saw him. He waved, but the windows were up and he was on the far side of the limo, so basically what you saw was the shape of a head and a palm waving. Well, anyway, I can say I photographed him!
But on the way home after that, I decided to drive by the seawall (as I always do) to see what was happening. Seeing a half dozen or more windsurfers I, of course, stopped to shoot. I'd been shooting for about a half hour when I saw the Coast Guard boat that had been in the marsh heading up along the coast, right off of the seawall, presumably heading back to New London or wherever it had come from. Since I wasn't shooting a windsurfer at that moment, I focused on the boat and tracked him as he headed east moving at a fairly good clip--apparently a little too good.
The Sound was a bit rough (wind being the reason there were so many windsurfers) and I shot a half dozen or so frames of the CG boat as it moved by--and an instant later I realized it was on a collision course with Mike. Apparently the captain of the boat realized it at the same instant and pulled a very hard fast turn to starboard, right into a wave and into the wind. The collision of the boat and the waves sent up an enormous spray (blow up the photo and you'll see just how huge it was) that completely engulfed the CG boat! Amazing! And I was focused right on the scene--capturing both the CG boat and Mike in the same frame.
How close were they? Pretty damn close if you ask me. I don't know if there was a real risk of collision or not (I think there was), but it was certain that the CG boat did not see the windsurfer. Also, the windsurfer was on the correct side of the boat, was under sail and was a smaller craft--so had the right of way on all three counts. I also think the CG boat was very far in on the shoal--though there's probably nothing wrong with that. And the seas were rough, so visibility was tough for everyone, but since that was the case, you'd think the boat would have been traveling a bit slower.
Anyway, every one survived and so there was a happy ending. And I not only got a good shot, but a good story. Amazing though that I was focused right on the boat when the incident occurred--which is why I tell everyone that your camera is no good sitting at home or in a case. Imagine the headlines if a boat that had been guarding the President had been in a collision that day!