A couple from Milwaukee spent the first night of their honeymoon under a wool blanket on the deck of a stranded whale watching ship — avoiding the smell of vomit in the cramped cabin below.
“We’re doing our best to see the silver lining,” said Jeremy Magnan, 31. “I mean, hey, we got to sleep under the stars on the Atlantic Ocean.”
Magnan was one of more than 150 passengers stuck on the Boston Harbor Cruises boat out of Boston, which became disabled after snagging a cable at a natural gas offloading facility about 13 miles off the Massachusetts coast. The three-hour trip turned into an 18-hour overnight stay from 1:30 p.m. Monday to just before 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Magnan said he knew immediately that something was wrong at about 3:30 p.m. when he heard a “nasty grinding sound” and saw the cable, which was about 5 or 6 inches in diameter.
“We pretty much came to a halt. We knew something was up, but we weren’t quite sure of the extent of the issue,” he said. But when officials onboard told passengers that divers were coming out, Magnan said he understood that getting the ship moving might take a while.
At about 5 p.m., the first round of divers made it to the ship, which was still about an hour from port, he said. The waves were getting choppy, though, knocking the divers around.
“There was nothing they could do with the weather the way it was,” Magnan said.
By 6 or 7 p.m., the galley had been opened to everyone, he said. Sweatshirts and other gear were being distributed for free. People ate soft pretzels, crackers, and some other snack foods provided.
“They offered everything they could, that they had, but there wasn’t really a contingency plan for something like that,” he said.
The next idea was for passengers to transfer to another boat that the company owned. That boat arrived at about 8 p.m., but when the ships were finally tied together, the line between them broke, Magnan said.
While people were frustrated, he said, “nobody really panicked at all, but it was at that point that we knew we were in for some long-haul experience.”
The Coast Guard arrived at about midnight and got some people on board via lifeboat. By 1 a.m., seasickness was setting in for many, who vomited into trash cans, toilets, doggy bags, and in some cases, off the edge of the boat.
Magnan and his wife Kristen, 25, were among the few who did not get sick, he said.
“It was rocking pretty good, and once the sun fell, it got choppier, and it became evident who did and did not have their sea legs pretty quickly,” he said.
The Coast Guard tended to those affected worst by seasickness, which was amplified by dehydration in many cases.
“The crew was really, really good and on top of cleaning the bathrooms and trying to maintain it the best they could under the circumstances,” Magnan said.
The couple managed to catch a few hours’ sleep on the deck of the boat. Some others around them slept as well.
For the most part, he said, communication between crew and passengers was good, and passengers were cooperative.
At about 5:30 or 6 a.m., as the sun was rising, another diving crew made it to the boat with the proper equipment to get the line untangled, he said. Huge cheers erupted from the crowd, and about 40 minutes later, the boat was headed back to the harbor, docking just before 8 a.m.
“People were pretty jubilant” upon arriving at harbor, Magnan said, and “everybody seemed really happy with the way things were handled.”
Magnan maintains a sense of humor about the incident. The couple got some great photos of whales, which swam right up to the boat. The $50 refund, $100 gift card voucher, and $500 for each passenger was an added bonus.
While others missed flights and hotel bookings, the couple only lost out on half of a package deal that also included a trip to the New England Aquarium.
“Kristen’s initial response was, ‘No more boats. We’re done,’” Magnan said. “But I reminded her, for the second part of our honeymoon, we’ve already purchased tickets out to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.”
After that, he said, they might take a break for a while.