Jul 28, 2012, 7:21 AM
Post #1 of 1
Long Island Postcard - Ghost Boat
Fireworks tragedy - Long Island Sound
Log-In to Post/Reply
The Dolans, the owners of Cablevision and Madison Square Garden, have put on a fireworks display on the Fourth of July for more than twenty years. A barge is moored off Cove Neck, in front of the neighboring estates of Chuck Dolan (the patriarch) and Jim Dolan (his youngest son, the C.E.O.), on Oyster Bay, and they throw a big party. The fireworks are usually accompanied by recorded music, which blares from speakers on the lawn and is also piped into speakers on the other side of the bay, at the Seawanhaka Yacht Club.
The show always attracts hundreds of boats, from either side of the Long Island Sound. They begin appearing in the afternoon, and by dusk the stretch of water where the entrances to Cold Spring Harbor and Oyster Bay meet is a welter of anchored sailboats, cruisers, yachts, and outboards, many of them lashed together, five or six wide, in a kind of floating block party known as a tie-up. As night falls and the running lights go on, the giant armada twinkles in the dark—a Bud Light Hong Kong.
After nine, the fireworks begin. They are always beautiful, and they always go on longer than you expect. The finale, after several feints, is an onslaught of noise, and then, after a few seconds of silence, the bravos begin: the boats blare their horns, in irregular, mournful bleats that bring to mind a giant herd of elk. And then it’s time to go home. The boats start moving. Suddenly, all the lights slip their moorings and begin zigging and zagging, at various speeds. A long parade of green ones (Red Right Returning) indicate those heading into Oyster Bay; the reds are bound for other harbors. Other lights zip in and out. Boat wakes collide and pile up. It is maritime mayhem.
This year, the ritual repeated itself. But, as the fireworks ended, another round of booming began, this from a thunderstorm coming in across the Sound. Lightning cracked horizontally in the sky, illuminating the chaos on the water and smoke lingering in the air. Soon the rain began. Out on the bay, the Kandi Won, a thirty-four-foot Silverton pleasure boat out of Huntington, suddenly capsized and sank. As everyone would hear the next morning, it had twenty-seven people aboard. Twenty four were rescued. Three were not. They were children, aged twelve, eleven, and eight. They were likely trapped inside the cabin. Their drowned bodies were recovered that night. It’s hard to believe that anyone who was on the water then, or anyone who heard about it afterward, has not imagined the horror of their last moments, or the pain and recrimination their families face for years to come.
The boat drifted north and came to rest in the mud sixty feet below the surface, in a channel off Lloyd Neck, just north of a towering buoy off which generations of local teen-agers have jumped, in defiance of signs warning of electrocution. Police boats anchored at the spot and kept up a kind of vigil, as divers explored the wreck.
In the coming days, a story emerged. The man piloting the boat said a giant wake hit the boat and tipped it over. This was plausible. So was the idea, widely credited, both in the press and by people who lived near the bay, that there had been too many people aboard a craft that size. (It is not a “yacht,” any more than the police boats, which are similar in size, are destroyers.) There seemed to be no law indicating passenger capacity, save for the ones governing common sense.
Nonetheless, people, or institutions, wanted answers, as they always do, and also maybe someone to blame, or arrest, or sue. The Nassau County police divers looked for evidence of damage or negligence— maybe a shortage of life jackets, the presence of alcohol. It was dark down there. The visibility was less than a foot. They couldn’t do much. They called in the F.B.I. for forensic help.
By the middle of last week, there was a flotilla on site—three police boats, two diving boats, two powerboats belonging to the bay constable, and, overhead, a pair of helicopters. They were trying to raise the Kandi Won. Not far off, baymen, in their skiffs, raked for clams, then tied up for lunch, erecting umbrellas and tarps for protection against the sun. Industrial oyster boats circled methodically over their fishing beds. Around them the surface of the Sound churned with giant schools of bunker, more abundant in the harbor this summer than in decades. There was no sign of the Kandi Won.
The next day, there was more helicopter activity than there had been, and the sound of sirens, and suddenly it appeared in the harbor, the death boat. It was on a tow line, grimed in bottom mud and skirted in the airbags that had brought it to the surface. The police were towing it into Oyster Bay. It went slowly past, in a makeshift procession of clammers and police officers. It looked small, and haunted. It was the saddest boat you’ll ever see. —Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker