I waited. So did the Chieftain. She hovered off the entrance of the harbor, perhaps assessing the risk of attempting to enter the harbor. I waited for a half hour before those on board made the decision to give it a go.
The Chieftain approached from the west. For long moments all you could see were the tops of her mast as she fell into the giant troughs. The current and massive swells had no pushed her into a very dangerous position, turning her broadside to the incoming waves, rearing nauseatingly high. One wave broadside and she would go over. This was no mere photo opportunity but a very real moment of desperation. I looked up over my camera to confirm that the waves weren’t an illusion created through the compression of my telephoto lens. They weren’t. My stomach twisted. I was sure the Chieftain’s captain had made a life-altering mistake that would see his ship and are into the cold, unforgiving water.
As the Chieftain made her final run I stayed focused. Her speed was impressive. With 50 yards separating her from the safety of the protected waters behind the breakwater, a think ball of black diesel smoke bellowed from her stack (she was at full power and moving fast) as the waves exploded, whitewater reaching hundreds of feet into the air.
In the end, half a boat length was the difference between joyous celebration and tragedy.