Munching ashore, Crunching on the River

While the cows contendly munched the hay or silage in their feed bunkers in the milking parlor, a farm worker would approach one to begin his routine.  Sitting quietly next to each cow in turn, on a one legged stool, he would first wash the animal’s teats and then rhythmically gather her milk into a metal pail.  Sometimes, a cow would get a bit fractious and kick the milker, or try to put a hind foot into the bucket.  Cold or unfamiliar hands were likely to cause a cow to act up, as would loud noises.  The milkers would often croon, calling each animal by name, to distract the cows.  If a cow happened to get her foot into the receiving bucket, the only thing that milk was good for was as a treat for the pigs.

After the milking was done, the milk would be put into the cooler room until a big truck came to collect it.  then the cows would be turned loose, one-by-one.  In summer they would be sent back out to the pasture.  In winter they would go into the enclosed barnyard where they had a sheltering roof and wooden hayricks full of hard-won summer hay.  The floor of the milking parlor had to be shoveled out, hosed down well, swept dry and limed, after the cows were all out.  In warm months sticky fly traps hung from the ceiling all over the parlor, just out of reach of the cow’s long, exploratory tongues.

Outside that peaceful scene on the farm, where animals went about their daily life munching contendly on abundant feed, life wasn’t always so quiet on the river.  One day two ships collided there, at a point close to where the farm was situated.  One of the freighters, of some 6555 gross tons, bound from Philadelphia to New York, met another freighter, of some 8258 gross tons, bound from New York to Philadelphia.  With a combined speed of 30 knots, the two ships came together in a difficult part of the main ship channel near Miah Maull Lighthouse.  Both pilots became confused as to the course and intention of the other and they collided at 0205.  The weather was fine, clear and cold, with a northwest breeze and a flood tide of about one knot.  One person was injured, and there was significant damage to both vessels.  Each ship remained afloat, even though each had significant flooding, and they both made their way to the shipyards at Phildelphia under their own power.  An ordinary seaman aboard the upriver-bound vessel was hospitalized at St. Agnes Hospital in Philadelphia.  He had suffered severe leg injuries.

After damage assessment was made in a shipyard in Philadelphia, the vessel that been bound upriver at the time of the incident was boarded by a USCG Lt. Commander.  The Lt. Commander found that the pilot of the ship had left for New York even though the master had requested him to remain on board.  That pilot later admitted to the Board of Inquiry that he knew the distance from the berth of the ship he had been piloting to the nearest Office of Marine Inspection, to which he was legally obligated to report in person, was only two city blocks.  Yet, he delayed reporting the casualty until he arrived in New York City, and then only by letter. 

It was considered that the principal cause of the collision was the lack of agreement on the passing situation and the failure of each pilot to recognize the dangerous speed with which the vessels were approaching each other, a velocity of more than 30 knots. The channel at Miah Maull range is a constricted stretch of water with shoals on either side, hence any meeting situation should only be bow to bow.  The Inland Rules under which ships navigate this channel clearly call for a port to port passing.  Any attempt at any other possibility is undertaken only at great risk. 

The Board of Inquiry into this incident found the actions of the master and crew aboard each vessel to have been faultless.  However, both vessels and both pilots were cited for failure to properly comply with the Inland Rules of Navigation.  A monetary penalty recommended against one of the pilots was held in abeyance pending action by the appropriate state authorities and the case was closed. 


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