Skip to main content

On the Water: A Tow Back Home

Wed, 06/19/2024 - 18:10
Bill Bennett landed this 48-pound golden tilefish on a recent offshore trip aboard the Viking Five Star out of Montauk.
Viking Fleet

On June 8, I headed west to Jessup’s Neck to catch some bluefish that I hoped would be bound for the smoker. Bluefish fillets, with their rich, oily flesh, make for the perfect fish when hot-smoked. Good eats awaited me.

Unfortunately, the weather that morning was rather nautical, as some would describe it. The rip at the northern tip of the peninsula was rough and turbulent as the wind was running against the tide. The seas were stacked up.

The wind unexpectedly blew a steady 20 knots out of the west. My sturdy 30-foot Rock Water that was built in Nova Scotia bounced heavily about on the rocky, churned up waves. It was not easy to keep our balance to sling out our respective diamond jig lures off the stern deck.

As well, my twin 80-gallon fuel tanks were also rather low on diesel. While the bluefish were plentiful and hungrily taking our lures, I regretfully neglected the possibility that air could enter the fuel line of the engine in the turbulent waters.

What does this mean? Think of it as a half-empty bottle of warm soda when shaken viciously. Air is trapped. It can’t escape, and if there is one thing that a diesel engine does not like, it’s air. It kills it.

After catching our limit of bluefish, I steered back to port in Sag Harbor, but my engine stalled out a few minutes later. I was able to get it restarted after 10 minutes, but it shortly conked out again. Not good. I had to drop anchor before I reached the beachhead at the northwest tip of North Haven or I would have drifted ashore.

My next move was a call over channel 16 on my VHF radio to Sea Tow, the national marine towing service that’s headquartered in Southold, about three miles away. Sea Tow is the A.A.A. of the waterways, and I’ve been a full-fledged member of it for 15 years, but up until this latest incident I’d only hailed it once.

Sea Tow showed up in less than 30 minutes. Brian, who skippered the boat that came to my assistance, was extremely well versed on the dos and don’ts of towing a disabled craft.

Ultimately, Brian got us close to my slip back in Sag Harbor Cove about 30 minutes later. My friend Ray Sperling, who worked as mechanic at the Hampton Jitney for over 25 years, was on board with me.

He re-primed my Yanmar engine, and we thankfully regained power as I steered Rock Water unassisted into my slip. It was a most satisfying ending to what could have been a most disastrous and humiliating morning.

Thanks, Sea Tow, and Ray.

Elsewhere on the water, the beat goes on. Anglers have witnessed a continued strong run of striped bass from Riverhead all the way east to Montauk and beyond.

Even larger bass over the 50-pound mark have shown up in greater quantities of late, It’s been a fantastic spring run of bass. As well, bluefish, some upward of 15 pounds, have arrived en masse in many locales.

Over at the Montauk Anglers Club, Chris Albronda said that inshore fishing continued to impress and improve, and that offshore fishing is starting to heat up.

“Bluefish now outnumber the striped bass, making it difficult to get to the stripers, especially with the new moon tide,” he said. “The hardest parts of the tides are the most effective time to catch striped bass and avoid the bluefish.”

Albronda added that the inshore bluefin tuna bite has produced a rough average of 30-to-40-inch fish with some up to 60 inches being caught on the troll.

Finally, a special call out goes to Bill Bennett of Sag Harbor. He climbed aboard the Viking Five Star last week out of Montauk for an extended offshore excursion for tilefish, fluke, and tuna.

On the two-day trip, Bennett landed a personal-best tilefish that weighed a hefty 48 pounds. The crew aboard also decked nine bluefin tuna on the troll. The fluke also cooperated on Nantucket shoals far off to the east on the ride back home. It was a heck of a trip in great weather.

My wife and I have enjoyed various preparations of tuna Bennett brought to us for the dinner table for several nights. Bennett, who is a plumber extraordinaire, also thankfully fixed a faulty toilet and dishwasher at our house the day after he returned to port.

On Saturday, Bennett, who is as hard-core a fisherman as they come, fished aboard the Simple Life out of Montauk under the guidance of Capt. Tyler Quaresimo. Fluke was on the agenda and the savvy skipper did not disappoint Bennett and the four other fishermen aboard. A full limit of fluke was landed, including a hefty doormat that tipped the scales at 12 pounds. Mighty impressive.

Bennett invited me on the trip, but I regretfully had to bow out. My bad.


Fishing tips, observations, and photographs can be sent to [email protected].


Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.