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Spooky Scenes on the Water

Vol. III, No. 59

A Spooky view from the water. Photo by Allen Clark /

Happy Halloween! This spooky view of a full moon from a trip on the mid-atlantic ICW seems appropriate for today, though, no, there’s no full moon today. In fact, today’s moon is a waning crescent, only 11% full (or 89% empty if you’re a pessimist).  Although it is an icon often associated with Halloween, a full moon on Halloween is actually quite rare. The last one occurred in 2001; the next, 2020. Mark your calendars! Thanks to Tom the weatherman in Chicago for the info.

What scary scenes have you seen on the water? I’m not talking about the first time you saw an ocean sunfish… Those of us who have sailed in the dark or the fog have had opportunities to get goosebumps on the water.

My spookiest memory involves a lighthouse. Lighthouses are often associated with scary stories because, well, just about every lighthouse is supposedly haunted. With names such as “Execution Rocks” on Western Long Island Sound, I guess it’s no surprise.  And lighthouse keepers seem to have a hard time leaving this world, according to the stories. You’d think they’d be glad to finally be able to leave their posts.

My creepy lighthouse experience doesn’t involve any angry lighthouse keeper ghosts, though. A few years ago on the Chesapeake, my husband and I left an isolated anchorage near the mouth of the Potomac in the middle of the night. We had an aggressive mileage goal for the next day and had to get an early start. The anchorage was a memorable one, a pond-like little cove surrounded by bare trees. One old farmhouse on the shoreline provided the only light. Calling it an anchorage is a bit of a stretch; we were, of course, the only boat there. It was a mix of serene and creepy.

At 2 AM, glad that Hannibal Lecter or Carrie hadn’t come out of the farmhouse to visit us, we pulled up our anchor and headed out. Soon we were out on the Chesapeake, our next waypoint a lighthouse. As we approached the waypoint, we couldn’t see the light. We watched our GPS and still couldn’t see it at a distance to bearing of 1 mile. When we still couldn’t see it within a 1/2 mile, we started getting worried. As we sailed within a 1/4 mile of the light, we started to see it’s outline appear out of the darkness.  It was an extinguished light, completely unlit. Worse, it was one of those that would have been spooky during the day- the kind that look like an old house. Sailing at just 6 knots or so, we went through a slow, creepy couple of minutes while it remained visible. I was happy to see it disappear into the darkness again.