Meeting in the middle

The United States Coast Guard Barque Eagle motors past New London Ledge Light as the U.S. Navy Virginia-class attack submarine USS California (SSN 781) passes southbound Thursday, January 23, 2014. Eagle was en-route to Fort Trumbull State Park in New London returning from a maintenance interval in the Coast Guard shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland.

I've had so much feedback on this photo I thought I might at least tell how it came about.

The Coast Guard Barque Eagle was due home January 23rd after spending several months at the Coast Guard shipyard in Baltimore.

Eagle is, as if I need to tell anyone, an icon of the New London waterfront and its arrival is something we always cover, whether back from summer sail or a maintenance trip. How we cover it visually depends on any number of factors.

Returning from the summer training cruise the families of the crew will gather on the pier, having not seen their loved ones in several months. Coming back from Baltimore the odds are pretty good that most family members have not been separated for a significant period of time and turnout on the pier is likely to be light.

It's those homecomings, when the weather cooperates, that I will head down river to see what I can see as Eagle enters New London harbor. This January was one of those occasions. The weather was clear, cold and crisp so the only question would be how far out would I be able to make a good photo of Eagle and what else would be included.

Ledge Light is an old standby, it's always there and is as ubiquitous an icon as Eagle.

I positioned myself at the top of the bluff at Avery Point with a 400mm lens and my cold weather gear (just getting out of the car was challenging in the cold and wind) and started to track as Eagle rounded Fishers Island (south of which they had anchored for the night before) passing a cargo ship anchored just inside The Race.

It was shortly after making a few frames of Eagle and the aforementioned cargo ship that I heard over the marine radio frequency the crew of Eagle talking to the crew of a U.S. Navy submarine.

Since I figure I was already looking at a photo of one icon; Eagle, another icon; Ledge Light, why rule out another local icon; a submarine. But where would they pass? From the radio traffic I could tell the sub was outbound for sea and both vessels were planning a port-to-port pass, but exactly where that would happen was not being clearly stated.

When the sub finally came into view on the Thames from my vantage point I began to hold out hope that they might pass well within range of my lens. Eagle was making good time inbound and the only real question was how fast the sub got to moving once they cleared the mouth of the river.

In a confluence of timing that probably could not have been better planned by the respective public affairs officers of the Coast Guard and Navy, the two vessels passed, port-to-port, just to the west side of Ledge Light and in near-perfect alignment with my vantage point.

I did have to contact the Navy public affairs to find out the identity of the sub; the USS California.

Of course my challenge, for the next time Eagle comes home, will be how do I top this photo?

Hide Comments


Loading comments...
Hide Comments