Perhaps for the only time, Block Island passes Block Island

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 5:45pm

It was just past noon on Thursday, July 30 when Patrick Sikes, a charter captain at the helm of his 23-foot Sea Hunt, hailed Capt. Renoble piloting a 200 meter bulk carrier on an easterly course at six knots just a few miles southwest of the Block Island Wind Farm.

Patrick is a photographer and FAA licensed drone pilot, who was preparing to execute a carefully assembled plan to capture this ship by drone when it passed the island. The cargo ship departed Patillos, Chile on July 14, bound for port in New Haven, Conn. She was hauling 51,000 metric tons of salt destined for icy Connecticut roads next winter. On this warm humid day offshore, it was hard to imagine the cold and snow as this huge cargo ship approached the island. This unlikely rendezvous at sea resulted from the initiative of a person who recognized that the ship, the Block Island, might never pass near her namesake again as she voyages around the world. 

The inspiration for a photo shoot of the Block Island navigating around Block Island came to former Harbors Department staffer and Block Island summer resident Peter Cassidy. Pete is a dry cargo ship broker working for Peraco Chartering in Stamford, Conn. In early July, he became aware that the Block Island, owned by one of Peraco’s customers, Pacific Basin Shipping LTD., had a contract to deliver a cargo of salt to the port in New Haven. Pacific Basin owns 35 Supramax (dry cargo capacity greater than 50,000 metric tons) vessels in their fleet, all named for unique river inlets, bays, and small islands around the world.

Pete’s friend at Pacific Basin in Hong Kong, Stephen Mackenzie, grew up in Montauk, and he had persuaded the owner to name the vessel the Block Island, with the hope that it might one day voyage to the Southern New England coast. Pete was considering a trip up Long Island Sound to take pictures of the vessel as it entered New Haven Harbor, when a chance encounter with Patrick Sikes through a mutual friend in Connecticut generated a bigger, better idea for the photo shoot.

During a socially distant outdoor gathering over July 4, they connected over a shared passion for exploring our beautiful coastal Atlantic waters, and Patrick revealed his work as a professional photographer who specializes in taking pictures from sea and air. By the end of their chat, Pete decided he would ask Pacific Basin to commission Patrick to photograph the Block Island with its namesake island in the background. The owners approved enthusiastically, and logistics were worked out to detour from the Block Island’s original course to pass close to the island. In the commercial maritime world, time at sea is particularly important, and a course change to take pictures of a vessel while underway with cargo is very unusual.

The weather cooperated and the pictures were captured. The photographer and Block Island captain and crew were both successful when the Block Island arrived on time in New Haven. So, if you wondered last Thursday afternoon why the huge ship was passing so close to the east side, now you know… the Block Island was navigating around its name sake for the first time.

Only time will tell if she passes this way again.

To view more pictures and drone footage of the Block Island near the wind farm and the Southeast Lighthouse, please open the link: