Above: A close-up shot of the lion figurehead at the bow of the Half Moon, a replica of the ship Henry Hudson sailed up the river that bears his name in 1609. Photo by Katy Silberger; published under Creative Commons license.
In the Times Union today: A tale of two ships, and how their captains' decisions during Hurricane Sandy led to very different fates.
While Robin Waldridge, captain of the 18th-century replica of the H.M.S. Bounty, felt his vessel would have better odds making it through the storm in the open ocean, Half Moon captain William "Chip" Reynolds opted for the protection of an inland dock on the Connecticut River. The storm would prove Reynolds right: The Bounty was lost, along with Waldridge and crew member Claudine Christian, while the Half Moon pulled through.
Reynolds recalled the Half Moon being tossed by gale-force winds in the Atlantic. He also lost control of the ship after its main anchor broke loose and it was swept several miles down the Hudson River during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Both times, the captain needed all his maritime skills, and some luck, to avoid a disaster. There is no fail-safe method for riding out a hurricane, but heading out to open water is not in Reynold's wheelhouse.
"We would never choose to go out to sea to ride out a hurricane," he said from the Half Moon's winter berth along the Hudson River in Verplanck, Westchester County. On Wednesday afternoon, a nor'easter dubbed Winter Storm Athena raked the ship with snow, sleet and 60 mph winds. They had moved the ship on Tuesday to a more protected basin in advance of the storm. His original sailing plan would have had him in Long Island Sound at the peak of Athena, but he left earlier than planned from East Hartford, Conn. Despite some grumbling by the crew, Reynolds gave the order to switch from anchoring at night to operating without stopping to get to Verplanck well ahead of the storm.
As fate might have it, while Reynolds captained the Half Moon safely through the storm, his own car was destroyed by floods in Athens, a village on the Hudson River whose waterfront flooded at high tide during Sandy.
"My ship was fine and my car sank," Reynolds said. "How's that for irony?"
The Half Moon's swift voyage from East Hartford, Connecticut to Verplanck, New York was mapped on the ship's website, which keeps a live map tracking the ship's movements.