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March 30, 2009

Close call for fishing boats, barge

Fishermen avert collision they say recalled Patriot

The high seas collision that didn't happen, didn't happen about dawn Saturday.

It was then that a barge pushed by a tug and operating without radar emerged from a "black thick of fog" just past Thacher Island into a flotilla of day-fishing boats, local fishermen said yesterday.

The tug and the barge were within shouting distance of two boats — Bill Lee's Ocean Reporter and Paul Theriault's Terminator — both about 40 feet long and trawling for the tantalizing spring influx of haddock with the federal closing of the inshore waters just days away at the end of the month.

Theriault said he avoided a collision by throwing his motor into neutral and giving the wench motor full power.

In those conditions, instead of wenching the trawl net into the boat, the boat — which has less drag than the net and trawl doors on the bottom — tends to slide backward briefly, just enough to allow the 130-foot-long, 40-foot-wide barge, pushed by a 30-foot tug, to ease past.

"We could have had a conversation," said Greg Bashaw, who was on the bridge of the tug navigating by sight through the fog and past the boats.

A licensed tug captain and assistant project manager, Bashaw said the tug left Boston about 11:30 p.m. Friday, gambling that the calm seas would allow his company, C. White Marine Inc., to fulfill a delayed commitment and get a crane to Newburyport where it was needed for an emergency bridge repair job.

"There were 20 boats in the area," said Lee, who was trawling alongside Theriault about 6:30 a.m. "It was very foggy. We were all on the radio with each other. One boat says, 'A barge just went by pushed by a tug, with a guy on the roof.'

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