Oil Delivery

In the early morning hours of December 31st, Buzzards Bay was very still.  There was a glow from the towns on the other side of the bay, but otherwise the night was dark yet brilliantly lit by thousands of stars.  House lights and red and green lighted channel marker buoys twinkled across the calm water.

Off season is very quiet on Cape Cod, and that’s particularly true in this quiet corner of the Cape as well.  There are very few year-round residents, and the few that are around aren’t hanging out on the beach this time of year.  Walking down the beach to take a sunset picture last night I saw two couples doing the same, and saw one other family when I first arrived and a power walker this morning.  Solitude prevailed.

The only company I had was announced by the distant thumping diesel engines of the tug boats pushing oil barges to and from the canal.  Tugs are a constant companion on the bay, and there was no let-up at 3 AM.  Heating oil is in high demand this time of year, and barges are running from Hicksville, New York on Long Island up through the canal to fuel thousands of customer’s heating systems.  There’s an estimated 2 billion gallons of oil being shipped through the canal annually.

In 2007 a barge being towed hit a submerged ledge and leaked 928 gallons of oil into Buzzards Bay.  The ecosystem is very fragile in Buzzards Bay and from that point on barges are required to have two tugs to ensure that any trouble is mitigated immediately.  The 2007 leak was the fourth such incident in 32 years from 1975 to 2007, and thankfully there haven’t been any since then.  I’m told that they’ve started using double-hulled barges so that even if the primary hull is breached the second hull should contain the oil.  I hope so.

But last night, that wasn’t on my mind so much as knowledge that the tugs and barges continue working this stretch of water from Long Island to New England and perhaps Canada.  This isn’t a 9 to 5 job, and I appreciate the people out there working the wee hours of this morning of 2018.  Hopefully they’ve reached port and are able to celebrate New Years Eve on shore.