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Maiden voyage of the Menhaden

BRIDG HUNT PHOTO
Menhaden passes under the Sagamore Bridge on the Cape Cod Canal on its way to Shelter Island.

Daylight dimmed in the west, as the lights of the North Ferry Company’s newest boat, Menhaden, appeared in the east on Sept. 25, steaming past Bug Light.

The 212-gross-ton vision of loveliness coasted into Greenport Harbor with snow-white ropes, and not a speck of rust, pirouetted and slid alongside the shipyard dock.

“She’ll never be this clean again,” said Bridg Hunt, manager of the North Ferry, as he joined the crew, which included Tommy Graffagnino, Jason Brewer and Chris Corcoran, on a gleaming deck that felt like an aircraft carrier.

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO
Menhaden’s first crew. From left, Tom Graffagnino, Chris Corcoran, Bridg Hunt and Jason Brewer.

The men drove to Maine on Monday, Sept. 23, boarded the boat on Tuesday, and steered her home on a route that involved navigating the coasts of Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. “It was uneventful,” Mr. Hunt said. “The best kind of trip to have.”

Menhaden was under construction at a shipyard in East Boothbay, Maine and her keel was laid on Sept. 24, 2018, one year to the day before her voyage home. She is a sister ship to the three other large ferries in the North Ferry fleet, all about 130 feet long, and 44 feet wide. When she goes into service later this fall, she’ll replace a much smaller boat, the Islander.

Signs of a good trip were evident from the start. Shortly after the 2 p.m. departure, a double rainbow appeared and good conditions stayed with them through the night. Over the course of the trip, everyone took several turns at the wheel.

On Wednesday morning, Menhaden arrived at the Cape Cod Canal ahead of schedule. “We were actually planning to go a little slower,” Mr. Hunt said. “We got to the Canal and had to wait for a tug and tow.”

TOMMY GRAFFAGNINO PHOTO
Double good luck ahead, as Menhaden steams along the Maine Coast.

Every cross-country trip has its Nebraska. In maritime terms, that’s Rhode Island, a very small state in terms of land, but never-ending for mariners, especially when the tide is against them, and the route is littered with lobster pots. “If you hit them, you have to pay for them,” Mr. Hunt said. “And the lobstermen wouldn’t sell us any.”

Menhaden is the small, oily fish common in our waters, also known as bunker. The word derived from Native American language and is an appropriate moniker for the new boat.

The crew saw plenty of fish but didn’t put any poles in, although a small fish did end up on deck when the boat dunked through a wave.

There was no stopping for fast food; all meals were prepared and eaten on deck, cooked on a grill with an ice chest keeping supplies refrigerated.

“It’s an important part of the voyage planning,” Mr. Hunt said. “The crew has to eat well. And we did.”

Once Menhaden passed through “the Race,” a notorious patch of turbulent water near Orient, the crew had home port practically in sight. Mr. Hunt was pleased with the way the new ferry handled the voyage. “It felt really, really solid,” he said.

In the end, a trip that might have taken up to 40 hours was completed in 28 when Menhaden docked at the shipyard in Greenport around 7:30 p.m.

For now, Menhaden is in Greenport getting some fine-tuning and customizing for her new career plying the waters between Greenport and Shelter Island.

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO Menhaden entering Greenport Harbor.

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