Fisherman Recalls Harrowing Voyage and Rescue Aboard Pink and Purple Boat

Reprinted from | Publication: The Southampton Press
Mar 13, 2019 1:27 PM
By Michael Wright

When a little girl named Joy was 3 years old, her daddy asked her what color he should paint his new commercial fishing boat.

Pink and purple, she said.

Rick Lofstad, the son of a storied Hampton Bays commercial fishing family, blanched a little at the thought of painting the newly purchased boat, which would be his place of business for years to come, pink and purple. But he felt father-bound to honor his young daughter’s wishes.

The Maine-built vessel’s hull was soon colored blueberry yogurt purple with cotton candy pink piping on its rub-rails, a matching pink roof for its wheelhouse, and 40-foot-tall pink outriggers towering over its decks.

All For Joy in Silver Eel April 2018. Photo Credit Jane T. Ahrens

Her new name, a fitting explanatory turn: All For Joy.

Last Sunday, three years later, Mr. Lofstad’s tale of how his boat came to bear a cartoon color scheme tugged at the heartstrings of the crew of a U.S. Coast Guard lifeboat that was motoring alongside the All For Joy as she made her way through storm-tossed Block Island Sound. Her skipper shared the tale over the radio, he recalled later this week, because: “I wanted them to know why my boat was the color it is—in case I didn’t make it.”

Mr. Lofstad was in the wheelhouse of the All For Joy, wearing a watertight neoprene suit specially designed to protect mariners who have to abandon ship in very cold water. The seasoned captain had already sent his only crewman—a man named Desmond, whose last name the captain doesn’t even know—to don a similar suit and told him to stand on the open deck of the boat so he wouldn’t get trapped beneath the hull if it capsized.

The All For Joy was steaming hard for New London, through the teeth of Sunday morning’s storm, with a Coast Guard escort and waves washing over her decks. Her fish holds had flooded shortly before dawn, after the makeshift cover to a newly installed conveyor mount blew off in the wind, and the 55-foot pink-and-purple trawler was desperately in danger of sinking.

“I was going fine, I was going to make it behind Fishers Island, but when we got to The Race, it was just pouring onto the deck too fast,” Mr. Lofstad, 60, said of the notoriously rough throat of waters where Long Island Sound empties into Block Island Sound, just off the northwestern tip of Fishers Island. If the boat could have gone another mile, it would have found calmer waters in the lee of the island and probably could have pumped out its fish holds with a high-capacity pump that the Coast Guard had passed aboard.

At about 9:30 a.m., two hours after they started following the foundering vessel, the Coast Guardsmen alongside her informed the captain that they feared the boat was about to capsize and ordered him to abandon ship. Mr. Lofstad ducked out of his pink-roofed wheelhouse to where Desmond, who was on only his third commercial fishing voyage ever, held tight to the boat’s gunnels, and the pair flung themselves into the churning waters of The Race.

As they were being plucked from the 10-foot-high waves moments later by the Coast Guard crew, the All For Joy turned turtle, her joyous pink and purple dressing snuffed out by the dour grays and greens of a stormy sea.

“We had our day, I can say that,” Mr. Lofstad said, praising the Coast Guard crews who had stood by through the ordeal and saved him and his crewman. “It was just a dumb thing.”

The pair were returned to land safely and Coast Guard officials applauded their preparation for the worst.

“This incident highlights how critical it is to have appropriate safety gear, emergency radio beacons, life jackets, and survival suits,” U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jesse Diaz said in a statement released by the Coast Guard after the rescue. “Anything can go wrong at sea, even if you’re a professional mariner. The safety gear saved the lives of these crewmembers today.”

The All For Joy, a small tip of her hull protruding just a foot or two from the water’s surface and her emergency locating beacon sending signals to the Coast Guard about her position throughout, drifted nearly 20 miles westward into Long Island Sound on Sunday.

When the tide turned and the southeast winds let up, she drifted all the way back to the east, past where she’d capsized, before her long outriggers caught bottom just off the northern shoreline of Fishers Island.

The vessel remains upside down off Fishers Island. Coast Guard and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officers are watching her constantly to contain any oil or fuel that leaks from her hull—Mr. Lofstad says some has.

He said he did not have insurance, which would normally cover the salvaging of a sunken or capsized vessel. But because the hull is in navigable waters and poses a threat to other vessels, the Coast Guard will attempt to raise her with a crane later this week and remove her.

Mr. Lofstad grew up in Hampton Bays working on the decks of boats owned by his father and legendary Hampton Bays fisherman Stian Stiansen—who was still working at 85 years old when he was killed after his boat capsized in Shinnecock Inlet in 2013. He’s owned a number of commercial fishing boats over the years, including the Evening Prayer and Prince Of Peace.

Unsure how he will pay to restore the All For Joy, replacing the boat’s motor and all its mechanical and electrical equipment, which will likely cost upward of $200,000, Mr. Lofstad nonetheless says he’ll manage. He’s no stranger to disaster, having lost one of his previous boats to Shinnecock Inlet as well, and having seen his wholesale fish business driven out of business after 180,000 pounds of fish rotted in coolers at the Fulton Fish Market when it was abandoned on September 11, 2001.

“I had no insurance to cover that either—I lost my house,” he said. “Now I’m 60 years old with a 6-year-old daughter. But I’m accustomed to fighting back from stuff, so I’ll find a way, I guess.”

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