Monday, March 17, 2014

The Whale And The Chief

Photo Credit: SEFSC.NOAA
Last weekend while manning a vendor booth at the Philadelphia Boat Show, I was approached by a young man with a whale of a tale.

He was wearing a white baseball cap, embroidered with the name "The Chief". I asked him for the story behind the name, assuming that the boat's owner was a fire chief or something of the like. While I never got the boat name's meaning, I did hear a story that I had to 'google' to believe...

"The Chief was my grandfather's boat," the young man told me. Hearing the word "was", I asked him if he had inherited the boat or named his own boat in his grandpa's honor. Nope, he explained, What's left of "The Chief" - a 51' sport fishing boat - has been sitting at the bottom of the ocean since 2006.

"My uncle sank her. He ran over a huge whale while he was heading out on a fishing trip.  The boat went down in under 5 minutes."

He continued...

"The Chief was over 30 miles out after leaving its port in Delaware River, New Jersey, and my uncle and his crew (there were 7 men in all) managed to salvage the lone life raft. Unfortunately, the life raft was built for only 4 people. They drifted for two days and another 30 miles before being rescued."

Did they have epirb, I asked? Yes, but it was not triggered and went down with the ship, but they did manage to get a quick distress call out before the boat sank.

They only had one flare on the raft. They survivors were riding 20 foot waves in the cramped life raft. Finally, after nearly two days adrift, they spotted a search helicopter. "My uncle waited until the raft was cresting on the next wave - he only had one chance - and he shot the flare straight up in the sky."

I couldn't believe this incredible story. Were they sure they hit a whale? The crew was pretty sure they were.

A 35-foot humpback whale washed up dead on the New Jersey shore 4 days after The Chief went down. According to reports, the whale was struck by a boat with such force, that the impact drove its stomach and intestines out of its mouth.

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