When Capt. Chuck Morici’s boat was sinking 15 miles from Montauk Point on Nov. 15, he did what people do in 2023: He made a short video. Orange haze from a smoke flare he had thrown in the water swirled around the boat. He pointed the camera below deck to show water, rising rapidly. “There she goes. I just want to cry. We’re going down.”
Minutes later, after the Coast Guard had arrived, he made a second video. “You might not like the Coast Guard when they measure your fish, but you sure like them when they show up and save your ass,” he said before panning to a Coast Guardsman descending below deck.
The steel-hulled, 60-foot trawler, named Act I, had left from Montauk five hours earlier, before sunrise, and motored north toward Watch Hill, R.I. They had caught 4,000 pounds of porgy and had no issues before the near tragedy.
“A three-inch piece of steel let go by the keel cooler pipe,” Captain Morici said by phone on dry land Monday. “I could see daylight through the hull.” He said he had two pumps going but they weren’t powerful enough to battle the torrent of water coming in. “I was fishing next to Capt. Dave Aripotch in heavy currents. I told him I was having trouble and asked him to come pick up my crew. I put them in survival suits immediately. Dave backed up, stern to stern, and he took care of my guys.”
“There was some chatter over the radio that we overheard. At first, we thought it was a mechanical problem,” said Lt. Anthony Kostek of the Coast Guard Command Center, Long Island Sector. Three Coast Guard Stations, including the Montauk Station, were called to assist.
When the Coast Guard reached the boat, it was almost too late. “It was teetering to the point where they’d have to abandon ship,” said the lieutenant. While the winds out at sea were calm, with waves of only about one foot, the water temperature is only about 55 degrees. “It doesn’t take long before you go into a hypothermic state at those temperatures,” he said.
“They asked me if I was going to abandon ship,” said Captain Morici. “I told them only if my ex-wife shows up.”
It wasn’t just the Coast Guard that arrived to assist Captain Morici. Charlie Morici, his father, 85, hopped on a speedboat with Christopher Carillo, a Montauk attorney, his brother Vincent Carillo, and Charlie Weimar, and sped the 15 miles out to give his son support. “He’s my best friend,” Captain Morici said of his father. “He didn’t think twice before calling Chris and racing out there. It’s a very tight fishing community in Montauk. We all watch out for each other.”
He gave a special thanks to Ed Taylor, a machinery technician from Montauk’s Coast Guard Station. He swam down to insert a wooden plug in the hull, which allowed the Coast Guard pumps to succeed. He could not be reached for comment.
“We were able to dewater to a point where it was deemed safe to get back underway. It took three pumps to remove enough water to right the ship,” said Lieutanant Kostek. The Newport Station Coast Guard shadowed the boat to the J. Goodison Shipyard in North Kingstown, R.I. It was a good decision. Along the way, the Act I lost its engine. “It’s an electronic engine. All the computer wires got wet,” said Captain Morici. It was towed the remaining distance.
“My boat survived because of the professional work of those Coast Guard crews from Montauk, New London, and Newport,” said Captain Morici. “I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I received hundreds of phone calls. I can’t even keep my phone charged.”
He gave the 4,000 pounds of porgies he had caught to the shipyard workers in R.I. “What was I going to do with it up there?” He hopes to be back in Montauk with the Act I in about three weeks. “Come down to greet the boat at the dock and get free fish,” he said.