Long-time MITA supporter and Harvard physicist John Huth, who just so happens to also be the author of the indispensable Lost Art of Finding Our Way, submitted this story to our Tales of the Trail contest in 2017. It’s a complete telling of the incidents that inspired him to write the book – we recommend reading and learning from both. John will be at the MITA office for an Introduction to Celestial Navigation workshop Thursday, November 15th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. If you would like to join, please RSVP here.
On Sunday, October 12, 2003, at 3:00 PM, Mary Jagoda, 19, and Sarah Aronoff, 20, kayaked into a thick fog bank from Ayer’s Beach in Harwich Port, Massachusetts. Before going out into Nantucket Sound, they told their boyfriends that they were going to paddle around for ten minutes. When they didn’t return forty minutes later, their boyfriends called for assistance. Two days later, the Coast Guard found Mary’s body floating in Pollack Rip, several miles off of Monomoy Island. Sarah’s body was never recovered.
I was kayaking in the Sound within a few hundred yards of them at the precise time they left the beach, but couldn’t see farther than one hundred feet in those conditions. That day, I could feel the pull of the fog, as if it were trying to draw me in. Since then, I couldn’t shake the feeling that fog has sentience.
Events are connected; this is indisputable. Some of us perceive the connections as having an underlying purpose. Some see them as random. Events are real, but meaning is a human invention.
My part of the story started the summer before the drowning deaths. My wife, Karen, and I rented a house on Little Cranberry Island for a couple of weeks. The island is several miles off the coast of Maine and is home to a small lobster gang that fishes out of Hadlock Cove. Summer residents and a small colony of artists are seasonal inhabitants. The only way to get to the island is either the mail-boats from Mt. Desert Island or by hiring a private water-taxi. Because of its inaccessibility, there are very few cars on the island, and the ones that are there typically have lost their mufflers and license plates. Karen invited ten of her closest friends and relatives to join us.
I have an allergy to house guests. With ten pampered suburbanites and children packed into a small rental on an isolated island in Maine, you can imagine the scene. One minute, I was detouring around somebody’s fat ass who had the refrigerator open, looking for leftovers to munch. The next minute, I had to find someone’s lost People Magazine or explain why they couldn’t get a latte at the one restaurant on the island.
Climbing the walls, and looking for an escape, I rented a recreational kayak from Joy, the vivacious island post-mistress. Joy supplied a life jacket and paddle with the kayak, but was out of compasses. She swore she’d get new ones in a couple of days, but I’d have to do without for the time being.
Maybe I’m afflicted with a form of testosterone poisoning, but I had to get out on the ocean, with or without a compass, or else go crazy in that tiny, crowded rental.
The circumnavigation of Little Cranberry involved crossing a narrow neck of land between the island and nearby Baker Island. The hourglass shaped constriction uncovers at low-low tide and allows a cautious passage at high tide. One heard stories of tourists who walked across the uncovered rocks at low tide to Baker Island, only to be stranded when the tide covered them up.
It was quite sunny when I started out. I paddled from the shelter of Hadlock Cove and passed through the “Gut” separating the island from neighboring Great Cranberry and then began crossing the exposed southern bay of Little Cranberry. With very little warning, a thick sea-fog rolled in. I hadn’t been in this situation before: fogged in on the sea without a compass.
There are two kinds of fog. Sometimes people call these “hot” fog or “cold” fog. Hot fog is the folk-name for radiation fog and it is relatively benign. It’s caused by local conditions when the air temperature drops below the dew point over land. You’ll see this in the morning, and it usually burns off quickly as the day wears on and the sun rises.
“Cold” fog goes by other names: “sea-fog” or “advection fog.” It’s more of a long-range phenomenon, and it arises when there is heating inland, and hot air flows over cold ocean water. Many times, an upwelling of cold ocean water near a shallow area can initiate a bank of sea-fog. Radiation fog is usually seen only in windless conditions, but sea-fog can be associated with winds up to 25 knots and can cover large areas of the sea and coast for days at a time.
My first exposure to serious sea-fog was in Berkeley, California. During summers, the fog would roll in across the San Francisco Bay, and devour the East Bay hills. Walking in that fog is a wonderful experience. Sounds are muffled, and the mist gives a gentle cast to the landscape, like the effect candlelight has on softening the facial features of a dinner date. This is the seduction of course.
Out in the exposed southern end of Little Cranberry, in the fog, I was entranced by the mist blurring, then obscuring all landmarks. But, with no compass bearing to go on, I needed something to keep me pointed in the right direction. I had a mental map of the area I was paddling through, but, on a wrong heading, I could end up paddling out to the open ocean.
I had to improvise quickly because I was too far from a landing site. As I watched the fog gather, I quickly took note of the orientation of wind, waves and swells relative to known points of land to create a kind of natural compass. One source of direction information is fallible, but many pieces taken together tell a coherent story. Inside the fog, you can see amazingly complex wave patterns, and feel the wind and swells – all of this in a small, isolated sphere of vision. Within minutes, I was completely enveloped in impenetrable barrier and could only make out the waves, swells and occasional lobster buoy.
I could hear the waves crashing on the rocky beach a mile away. The beach has a 20 foot high berm of rounded basalt and glacial conglomerate, and had craggy ledges protecting it. Landing in the dumping surf would’ve been foolhardy, I would’ve been thrashed. You could hear each wave crash, followed by the sound of rock faces grinding together as the water receded. The waves gave me an auditory reference for direction in addition to the wind and the swells.
Fear can produce two different reactions: one is a heightened sense of awareness where time seems to slow down and perceptions are enhanced. The other is a kind of panic-stricken mental fibrillation. You can’t predict what a person’s reaction is going to be ahead of time, but it has been shown that in survival situations, the people who enter into the heightened state of awareness invariably have a much higher chance of survival than those who panic.
In this case, I wouldn’t say that I was scared, but I definitely felt a rush of adrenaline and my senses seemed to open up to everything around me. Using the wind and swells as a natural compass, I kept my bearing, and from time to time, the fog would lift and reveal a hint of land which reinforced my confidence in the sea-signs. Then the land would disappear again. I found I could paddle straight with my eyes closed because I could feel the wind on my face and the swell pattern underlying the wind-blown waves.
As I approached the gap between Little Cranberry and Baker Island, I could hear breakers in front of me. I also noticed that the lobstermen set traps only so close to the rocks connecting the two islands, and, at a certain point, I passed the safe zone of lobster buoys into shallow water. I could see some minor shelf with waves breaking over it to my right, and made a slight detour to avoid it. Then I saw some rocks to my left, and skirted them. Somehow, I slowly made my way through the maze, by pushing ahead into whatever zone of calmest water I could find, always trying to get past the next fifty feet. Beyond that, I couldn’t see a thing.
The fog parted and I was confronted with a wall of rocks and waves splashing against them. I carefully made my way forward. Suddenly I saw the gap between the islands. It was tiny, perhaps thirty feet wide and surrounded with hissing combers. I scooted through the gap with all due care, and felt some unseen hand pushing me through. On the other side of the gap, the waves were breaking in the opposite direction. “Sonofabitch, how can this be?” I wondered aloud.
Then I realized why the waves broke on both sides of the neck of land: the prevailing direction of the sea-swells was from the south. The swells diffracted around the teardrop shape of Baker Island and the narrows. They ended up rolling in opposite directions onto the neck of land, causing mass confusion in the little opening. With waves pushing from both sides, the current was very erratic. My peripheral vision was totally open. I was sensitive to every little bump of the kayak from the current and was scouting a passage out to safer waters.
I managed to find a good line to take me out of the ledges and breakers in the narrows to the safe zone of the lobster buoys on the other side of the neck, and then turned north along the coast of the island. The fog came in again, and I noted the wind and swell directions before getting hemmed in. I followed the demarcation line of lobster buoys and used these to circumnavigate the island. When the wind dropped, I saw that the buoys had little wakes behind them, and used this to follow the direction of the flood current back to the harbor.
When I got back to the crowded rental, I spent a lot of time on the porch staring out into the fog. Sometimes, it would get so thick that I could barely see the streetlamps across the street. I realized that in my haste to get out on the water, I was taking some risks. The water temperature was 50 degrees, I wasn’t properly dressed in a wetsuit, I didn’t have a compass, I wasn’t wearing a life jacket – in short probably all sorts of things that a beginner’s book on kayaking would tell you not to do. I’m a slow learner. Still, I made it through with no problems, and accomplished my goal of a quiet paddle. I decided at least to get a wetsuit when I got back to my home in Boston.
On Columbus Day weekend, my family and I were staying on the beach on Nantucket Sound. The water temperature was dropping into the fifties and it was my last chance to fish for striped bass migrating back to the Chesapeake Bay. On the Sunday before Columbus Day, I kayaked out in a thick fog on the Sound to fish for stripers. I began to feel about the fog the way some people talk about twilight: it’s a crack between worlds, a door to the unknown. When you go out into the fog, you feel like you’re entering a transition zone with a parallel universe lurking on the other side. Being a scientist, I shouldn’t subscribe to such silly notions, but the emotional need for romanticism often trumps rationality.
The visibility was perhaps 100 ft. I only saw one other boat out on the water. It was a group of three guys in a small outboard. They were also fishing and waved to me, and then disappeared into the fog. I tried to stay in sight of land, but it disappeared from time to time. From the wind direction (east-south-east), I steered back toward land, and saw some of the lights of houses on the shore.
Breakers would approach in the fog, then hiss past me and the hull would sometimes slap the water as it crossed over a large wave. As I rounded the Allen Harbor light, I saw the guys in the motor-boat again, heading off for another fishing spot. They disappeared into the mist, leaving me alone on the water. I felt a presence on the Sound that day. It drew me away from the safety of the lights of the living rooms on shore and into that other world. Noises were muffled and deceiving. The hissing noises of the breaking waves made sounds like fricatives in human language: “f’s” and “s’es” and “th’es.” Coupled with the vowels of the whistling of the wind in the lines, it almost sounded like the sea was talking to me. “Feee….eeeesh….fie….saaay”: a language, if one could only decipher its meaning.
I’d promised to take my kids out to the movies that afternoon and checked my watch. This jarred me out of my reverie. I pulled up on the beach, with the mist blowing by. When I walked in the door, the warmth and light of the house was alien, even though I had left only two hours before. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was still in the other world.
We went to the movies and back home, and I cooked up an easy dinner of spaghetti for the kids and adults. We had a nice warm fire, and my wife and sister-in-law played Scrabble in the living room while I read. I slipped outside to the porch and marveled that the wind had died down and the sea was dead flat, with the same thick fog hanging over everything. I still belonged to the fog.
The next morning was Columbus Day. The wind had picked up from the north overnight and blew the fog away to give a clear blue sky. I went out paddling and saw the Harbormaster’s chase boat near the mouth of Allen Harbor. It’s the floating equivalent of a police cruiser, complete with flashing lights and a siren. Much to my amazement, as I got close to it, it flashed its lights and sounded its horn. Being a juvenile at heart, my first reaction was, “Oh shit, the cops! What did I do?” But then I realized that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I figured this was the nautical equivalent of being “pulled over”, and paddled up to the boat.
An old guy was at the helm and asked me, “Have you seen two girls in kayaks?” I said, “Nope, I haven’t seen anyone on the water this morning. When did they go out?”
“They left Ayers Beach yesterday at three in the afternoon in two plastic kayaks. They’ve had the Coast Guard and everyone out in helicopters and boats searching for them all night long.”
I had been within a quarter mile of Ayers Beach at that precise time, chasing stripers and playing in the fog.
“I’ll keep my eyes out and call the Harbormaster if I see anything….”
At that moment, the Coast Guard came crackling over the VHF emergency channel. It was one of the search helicopters:
“Woods Hole, Chopper Three, we’ve found two kayaks in Pollack Rip, will launch a diver, over.”
“Chopper Three, Woods Hole, we copy, over.”
I could hear the helicopter noise over the radio. The kayaks were found at least eight miles away!
The guy in the boat immediately got distracted. We parted company, and I paddled home. I got on my laptop and checked the Cape Cod Times website. They had managed to contact the parents of the two girls. They were Mary Jagoda and Sarah Aronoff, 19 and 20 years old. They’d been down to the Cape with their boyfriends, and were going out for a ten minute paddle from the beach. They disappeared into the fog. A witness said that they’d seen one girl go along the shore; the other seemed to go out into the Sound. Mary’s father said that she had had ocean kayaking lessons, and there is no way that she could have drowned. He speculated that, since the kayaks were found near Monomoy, they surely had landed and were walking for help. Dogs were dispatched to the island and people were searching the beaches and dunes for fresh footprints. I had a sinking feeling in my heart that their father was fighting against the inevitable bad news.
All afternoon, I sat on the porch overlooking Nantucket Sound. It was warm and the sky was clear blue, with only traces of high cirrus clouds. I watched the Coast Guard helicopter flying a search pattern back and forth across the Sound. It would swing close to land and then turn around and nearly disappear over the horizon and then return again. It was agonizing to watch. Nothing new had turned up by the end of the day, and I had to pack up and head on up to Boston.
The next day, I read in the Boston Globe that the Coast Guard found Mary’s body floating in Pollack Rip, off of Monomoy. She wasn’t wearing a life jacket. They never did find Sarah’s body.
I don’t know if I’d say I had “survivor’s remorse” or a sense of “why them and not me?,” but there was some difficult emotion there and I’m not sure there is a word for it. I vaguely wondered if things had been only slightly different, I might have run into them in the fog and helped them find the shore. Looking back on it, I know I had been in riskier situations a number of times and actually felt a sense of exhilaration that day. I remember writing a friend an e-mail the night of the accident saying “I felt so alive out on the ocean.” Those words were hard to swallow. I had a hat that my wife had given me for my birthday with a depiction of a grinning kayaker on it, with the saying “Life is Good” on it. I found it difficult to wear the hat for a while.
The girls only wore bathing suits and cotton tee shirts. They didn’t have a compass or life jackets. The kayaks were very small and not terribly seaworthy. It must’ve been a struggle, as their kayaks were found tied together. One guy at the local kayak store remarked, “Yeah, they did just about everything wrong.”
No one alive knows precisely what happened, but one can guess: they went out without noting the wind direction, and played and had some fun. Suddenly, the fog thickened and they lost sight of shore, but were still together. They paddled up to each other and discussed what to do. One of them said that she was sure that land was in “this” direction and pointed in a direction that was east, while land was really north. They paddled for a while, with panic rising and an “Oh my God, can this be happening to me” feeling. After a while, this feeling got voiced, but they pressed on. They were actually heading east in the fog. At some point, the wind dropped off and they kept paddling, but got colder and colder. Their tee shirts were soaked from the wind spray and their core body temperature began to drop. One of them started to shiver and they tied their boats together. They tried to kayak along in the night, but had to rest more and more frequently. The feeling in their hands first disappeared, and then their feet got numb. The wind started to pick up from the north and push their boats from behind. Waves began to build, causing the two kayaks to surf crazily and yaw. One of them broached, dumping the girl into the water. Already dazed from hypothermia, they attempted to right the overturned kayak, but couldn’t get their hands to work properly. The second kayak broached and they hung onto the kayaks for hours. The shivering became uncontrollable, like an epileptic seizure. Soon the shivering stopped, indicating the most serious stage of hypothermia. One, then the other lost consciousness and eventually inhaled the salt water. A weakened body reflexively tries to cough out the water, but it was too late. The flood tide runs east around Monomoy Island and carried their bodies out through Butler Hole and toward Pollack Rip.
I found out that Mary’s family had already suffered terribly, with the death of one of three children from a birth defect. The second one died in the World Trade Center attack on 9/11. Mary was the last of the siblings. I wrote a letter to Mary’s father expressing my sympathies. I never found out how it was received. I felt guilty writing it. I lived. They died.
The weekend before Halloween, I went with my son’s Boy Scout troop on a campout at an orienteering meet. In orienteering, people race by navigating from point to point in a forest, using a compass and a topographic map. The evening before the actual race, we were sitting around the campfire and we were telling ghost stories. While I was waiting my turn, I thought up a ghost story based on the events of the kayakers’ deaths. Of course, all ghost stories require an obligatory “this is something that really happened to a friend of mine.” I wondered about the ethics of making up a ghost story about a very real and tragic accident, yet I thought it might hammer home the unforgiving nature of the sea.
In my ghost story I told the story as it really happened, which was my point of departure into the fictional supernatural. In the fictional climax, a friend, Brenda, was at our house the weekend after their deaths went for a walk on the beach. It was nearly dusk and also very foggy. A girl appeared out of the fog and walked up to her. The girl was clearly dazed and confused and asked which way was north. Brenda pointed her in the general direction and the girl walked away in the fog. It was low tide and the beach shone like a mirror. You couldn’t tell the difference between sea and land. Only after the girl vanished in the mist did Brenda notice that her footprints appeared in the sand, but not the girl’s.
I’m guessing that most “true” ghost stories are a search for catharsis on the part of the original narrator. Certainly that was the case for me, and I hope that it never propagates as a “true story that happened to a friend.”
I cope with tragedy by buying gear. The emotional context is that the gear must insulate me from possible harm. When Al Qaeda hit on 9/11 and none of us knew what was next, I bought a Geiger counter for a possible dirty-bomb attack. In this case, I knew that I had “sinned” by not having a compass with me and by not wearing my life jacket, but the sea had allowed me to escape with a warning.
I became a gear junkie and bought all sorts of kayak equipment. I found a spiffy fiberglass sea kayak. I got a compass and mounted it on the deck. I got a waterproof GPS receiver and learned how to use it. I bought a flare gun and aerial flares. I bought a dry suit. I bought numerous books on kayaking. I attended a course on Eskimo rolls, which left every single muscle in my body so sore that I felt like I could hardly walk the next day. I bought a portable waterproof VHF marine transceiver and learned how to use it.
I visited the Harwich Harbormaster, Tom Leach. Tom was involved in the search for the girls that awful night and had his radar tuned down to the utmost sensitivity, yet saw nothing. He was as affected by the deaths as much as I was, but, unlike me, he acquired a sense of mission from the tragedy. Tom worked with the Massachusetts legislature to introduce a bill that would require all kayakers to wear a life jacket, a whistle and a compass – items that neither the girls (nor I) had during the tragedy. Some of the reactions to the legislation were predictable – people viewed it in the same category as seat-belt legislation: an unnecessary intrusion into their personal lives. One legislator spoke against the bill, saying that she didn’t even know how to use a compass; she shouldn’t be required to carry one.
From then on, I carried everything I should carry on my kayak ventures: two compasses, a waterproof VHF transceiver, a flare gun, a strobe light, a GPS receiver, a portable bilge pump, a sponge, a paddle-float, a whistle, a portable fog-horn, and, of course, I always wore a life jacket. The navigation deck of my kayak began to resemble an airplane’s cockpit. I was ready for my instrument rating.
“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”
— Anais Nin
The following summer, I returned to Maine with my family. With a new kayak, I vowed to paddle the five-odd miles from Northeast Harbor out to Little Cranberry Island, unless the conditions were horrendous. The route had a number of exposed stretches. I was about as prepared as any “how-to” kayak book could tell you. I had my entire course laid out in terms of compass bearings and paddling times, and had these written up on a waterproof deck chart. I also had the entire course laid out on my new GPS.
Karen and the kids would ride with our suitcases on the water taxi to Little Cranberry, and I’d kayak over and meet them. We drove through Mt. Desert Island, and as we started to approach Northeast Harbor in the van, I noticed patches of fog on the tops of the mountains. As we turned the corner to see the harbor, I saw dense fog rolling in from the ocean. The memory of the drowning deaths of those girls came back to me in full force. And….here I was planning on voluntarily going out in thick fog and making several exposed crossings!!! The guidebooks on sea kayaking in this area called the passage I was planning suitable only for “advanced” paddlers. I don’t know what degree of difficulty sea fog combined with large swells from the open ocean would add to it, but one could guess. It was not like I didn’t know what I was getting into. Nonetheless, I felt the pull of the ocean and the need to exorcise the feelings I had over the deaths of the girls on Columbus Day.
It was 6 PM, and every delay in getting on the water meant that the sun would be going down further. I kept repeating to myself “face your fears and they will disappear.” My seven-year old daughter wanted an ice-cream, and it took what seemed like an eternity to find a place, order it, pay for it and get it. Every minute on land increased my fears. My mouth got dry. I didn’t want to have my kids lose their daddy, but at the same time, I knew that I had done this before, and now had a much healthier safety margin.
Finally I got on the water. The first GPS waypoints in Northeast Harbor passed by readily, but then at the end of the harbor was a solid wall of fog. The first crossing was to Bear Island, and skirted the navigation buoys for the vessels leaving the harbor. As I crossed the “zone” into the fog, my heart was pumping furiously and my knees were shaking. I was worried that I’d start to hyperventilate. Soon I was completely enveloped and steering by compass. The wind was out of the southeast, and I noted its direction. For some reason, I soon got to the point where I didn’t trust my compass, and began steering too far to the east of where I should’ve been. I thought it was too far west. I had to stop. I forced myself to breath slowly and refocus. Then, I had to convince myself that I could trust my compass. I steered left and right to demonstrate to myself that the bigger numbers meant “more west” when I was facing south. I could hear the bell of a navigation buoy off in the distance in approximately the direction I expected it. I corrected my course, and within a few minutes, Bear Island appeared out of the mist. I saw an abandoned Coast Guard station, with a boat house and a ramp. I skirted the west, then south end of Bear Island, and saw the next waypoint- a navigation buoy that marked my turn to the crossing to Sutton Island. Here I had to cross the navigation channel, and felt for my fog-horn. The “horn” part of it somehow got detached from the compressed air canister.
It was a half mile crossing to Sutton Island from Bear. My original planned route was predicated on good visibility and had a bearing that led directly to the east end of the next island, Sutton. If I paddled that course, and missed the end of Sutton in the fog, I might paddle out into the open ocean. I decided to steer more to the west and simply intercept the north coast of Sutton and claw my way along the shore. So, I changed my bearing and hoped for the best.
Again, I disappeared into the mist and was paddling on faith of the compass. I heard a motor behind me. It was a vessel leaving Northeast Harbor. At least I had managed to clear the channel without getting hit. I knew it was going to take about fifteen minutes to reach Sutton, and I kept looking at my watch to figure how close I was by dead reckoning. I wasn’t any farther than fifty feet from Sutton when I finally could make out the shoreline and a large bluff. I then turned to the east along the shore, but, damn if the fog wasn’t thick! Waves were crashing on rocks in front of me – I could hear them but couldn’t see them. As I paddled further along, if I got too close to shore, I could see land but risked the rocks. If I paddled further out, I’d lose sight of land. So, I zigzagged, literally, between these two fears. Finally, I saw the coastline slipping away to the south and realized that I’d reached the eastern end of the Sutton. My GPS said that I was 400 ft from my turning point, and I could feel the swells from the open ocean to the east pushing me around and reflecting off the island. I took a deep breath, and headed out on the next crossing – this time the final leg to Little Cranberry. The crossing was about a mile and was supposed to take twenty minutes or so. About five minutes into the crossing, I felt that something wasn’t right, and then noticed that the wind had shifted around to the northeast. Again, I knew I should trust my compass, but I found the wind-shift disorienting.
In the distance, to the west, I could hear the bell of a navigation buoy and found it highly reassuring to be in approximately the right direction. It was at first off my starboard bow, and then directly off to my right and then slipped behind to my stern.
My final waypoint was Hadlock Point, which is on the northeast end of Little Cranberry Island. My GPS read off the distance. First it was 0.8 miles…then 0.76…then 0.7. Every few minutes I’d read the distance and it kept getting smaller and smaller. When it was around 200 feet, the point appeared, and knew I was home-free. I paddled around the point and took out at the town dock.
I pulled up the kayak and walked to our rental house. Pretty soon, I was showered up and was relaxing in the dry, lighted warmth of the restaurant on the end of the dock. The people at the bar were all jolly, and laughing. I felt like I had been readmitted to the land of the living; welcomed back to the human race. The weight of the tragedy had been lifted from my shoulders.
Later that week, a boy about eleven years old convinced his father to rent a kayak from Joy, the post-mistress. He was very keen on going out into Hadlock Cove and his dad asked me if I’d give him some lessons. On land, we went through the basic paddle strokes, sweeps and even the idea of a brace. Joy still hadn’t renewed her supply of compasses, and I gave him my orienteering compass, which he placed around his neck. It was still foggy, and we went out and paddled around Hadlock Cove for a while. When we got out of sight of the town harbor, I said to him, “OK, now take a bearing back to the harbor and show me you can find your way back in the fog.” He did this magnificently. I don’t know if he appreciated how much this meant to me, but, well, I felt like I had made a minor positive contribution to the universe.
Now, here’s the strange thing: when I think back on all of those times I was out in the fog, I know that there was daylight – but my memory is of darkness. Maybe some neuroscientist can tell you what’s going on, but for me, I only remember the blank-outs in the fog as pure black. Maybe that’s what happens? If you remove all visual clues, no matter how much or how little light there is, the brain just puts it into long term memory as “black.” My recollection of the day the girls were lost was as if I was paddling at night, and also on my crossings to Little Cranberry. And yet, I know that there was light out, because every time I saw land, my memory was of light. But when I was in the fog, my memory was black.