Posted by: nauticalchronicles | November 23, 2011



 Assault on Hogg Island 

It started as just another weekend trip to theEssexRiveron the back side ofPlumIslandinMassachusetts.  Louise and I in “Halfmine” were planning on anchoring with Peter & Mary in “Out of service”, which we do on a regular basis.

Once we were securely anchored, we dropped the dinghies in the water and prepared to do what we do best…sit on the beach, do nothing and discuss topics of great importance.  From the beach, we had a good view ofHoggIslandand began talking about how the island had been used as a “set” for the movie “Crucible”.  There had been several false buildings constructed for the movie set, and they were visible from the beach.  As always, we also discussed how beautiful the island setting was, located in the middle of theEssexRiver.  Our conversation then wandered to other extremely important topics, and we temporarily forgot about the island. 

Late in the afternoon, we returned to the boats, sunburned & soggy, and ready for cocktail hour, another pastime we do on a regular basis.  Louise and Mary had planned a sumptuous, onboard Mexican fiesta complete with salad, quesadillas, refried beans, corn, tequila…it was to be quite the feast. Favorably for Peter and me, they were quite content that we remain on the aft deck smoking cigars, listening to JB, and continuing our important discussions from the afternoon (I also believe that our 1st mates didn’t mind being apart from us since we tend to get in the way; also, there tends to be “bathroom” talk which they don’t seem to appreciate the way we do).  Somehow, our discussion drifted back to Hogg Island, Thaddeus Choate, who was buried at the top of the island, the caretaker’s house and other “historic” mis-information (we have since learned that there was no Thaddeus Choate; the island is now called Choate Island, owned by the Choate family for 300 years; Mine & Cornelius Crane are buried at the top of the island; two young slave girls died on the island & were buried there; Rufus Choate was born on the island in 1799, son of George & Suzanna Choate; Thomas Choate bought slaves f or his son, Francis in 1714).

This day, as we sat on the back of the boat discussing the universe in general, our topic, somehow turned to…the supernatural; life after death, ghosts, spirits, aliens, all types of things that go bump in the night.  I was shocked; Peter was superstitious. I had not known this.  It was, therefore, imperative that I milk this new realization to its fullest.  The discussion was deep and lengthy; I may have told a ghost story or two from old campfire days…just enough to keep him on edge; I also had another idea which I was going to spring on him after dinner, after dark.

Our dinner that night was particularly enjoyable and lasted until well after dark.  We ate a lot of food.  Peter very rarely does anything in moderation, and when we get together, I also help take things to the extreme…ask the mates.  The night was star-filled and clear with only the hint of a moon; the Milky Way was visible as only it can be on a dark night, at sea with no surrounding lights.  I managed to return to our day’s topics: the supernatural andHoggIsland.  I suggested the idea of making a clandestine dinghy voyage toHoggIslandunder cover of dark.  Possibly, we should apply some camo paint to our faces to avoid detection.  We should use no tell-tail running lights with the dinghy since our landing should be undetectable; we should not speak but use only hand signals.  We should especially be on the look-out for ghosts, spirits, night creatures…and the caretaker.  We should hike, noiselessly, to the summit and have a beer with Thaddeus.  Otherwise, our option was to stay on the boat, listen to music, sing & dance; the usual type of evening.

Well…our 1st mates wanted nothing to do with this idea, however, they were not as opposed to our doing it as I might have thought (I think they liked the idea of getting rid of us for a while).  Much to my delight, Peter was actually a little scared due to our earlier talk of ghosts; I couldn’t believe he was superstitious.  I of course told him he should face his fears to get beyond them.  He, reluctantly, agreed to go (in hindsight, I’m sure his decision had nothing to do with our extended cocktail hour; we had just finished a huge Mexican fiesta meal, we were coherent and the night was perfect for a dinghy run).

We changed to dark clothing, skipped the camo face paint and slid noiselessly into the dinghy.  We viewed the surrounding waters for possible spying eyes, and slowly, very slowly inched away from our boats toward the night-black island.  There were no lights visible on land and we were encouraged at the prospects of our surreptitious landing and subsequent journey to the summit. For whatever reason, Thaddeus needed our salute that night.

Our landing was soft and quiet.  We were able to skim to the shoreline and tie up to a small shrub.  Peter was very uncomfortable about the darkness and the possibility of spirits from the after-life…he was nervous.  It was very dark.  He was also claustrophobic and the “closeness” of the dark night was unsettling to him.  I, on the other hand, was having a great time.  As we hiked out of the pucker brush, we found the dirt trail which would take us to the gravesite; we were out in the open but there was no light from any building or vehicle so we were close to being invisible.  We quietly made our way up the hill.  We viewed the false building fronts erected by the movie company, and we saw the historic Choate House.  Every night-noise we heard though seemed to spook Peter.

To say the least, Peter was very relieved when we reached the graves, although he was apprehensive about the spirits surrounding the area that I kept talking about.  We leaned against the railing surrounding the graves, listened to the stillness of the night & drank our beers in salute to Thaddeus.  That is also when we learned that we were saluting Cornelius Crane & his wife, Mine rather than Thaddeus.  Much later is when we discovered that there was no Thaddeus.  Undiscovered, and leaving no trace of our pilgrimage, we high-fived the success of our mission and departed the graveyard.

Our return trip to the dinghy was uneventful since our ability to sneak down the hill quietly had been well developed on our way up the hill.  When it came time to leave the dirt path and return to the dinghy is when we ran into an issue…the Mexican Fiesta, the beer and the anxiety of the evening had suddenly and unavoidably caught up with Peter; control was not something he was going to be able to exercise.  He needed to relieve himself…badly.

We had not come, fully supplied on this voyage, for such an event.  Let’s face it; we didn’t expect to need toilet paper on this type of late-night excursion into the unknown.  He had worn a shirt and pants; no T-shirt & no…well no under clothes of any nature.  There appeared to be no broad-leafed shrubs, and no other suitable substitutes; this was truly a quagmire of conflicting alternatives, but nature was going to have her way.  Being the good friend, and after several “augh….jeez’s”, I offered him my underclothing (he was very grateful; I was thankful I hadn’t put my name on them as I used to do as a kid at camp).

We returned to the dinghy to find it had somehow gone a-ways out to sea (actually, the tide had come in some) and we were forced to wade through the murky waters to get it back.  Silently, we returned to our anchored boats and our 1st mates…dirty, wet and humiliated. 

As we boarded, slightly embarrassed by what had transpired, we discovered the final, crowning blow, the second issue of the evening’s events…ticks; lots of ticks.  Our final humility was having to strip down, hermetically seal our clothing (what was left of them) in plastic bags, and be reviewed head to toe for this infestation.  For several weeks after this epic voyage, we found the bodies of dead ticks on the aft deck.

The following day, we returned toHoggIslandduring normal business hours, to enjoy the sights, and, more importantly, to make certain we had not disturbed the natural beauty of this remarkable and historic site in any way.  We also wanted to be certain Peter’s flag was not waving unceremoniously somewhere in the pucker brush.

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man

here we come Planning for Hogg Island Preparing the dinghy

Tied up in the Essex River this is not a good idea Hogg Island



  1. lordy lordy, i can see this happening, and it’s hysterical. I think it was a huge
    note of true friendship for you to give up your tighty whities to a friend in need, and also that you even said the word, undies. I know you are so private about these things, this was big, it’s like blood brothers. You and Pete are forever bound with the assault on Hogg Island and the underwear that the caregiver will find and never understand, You have been immortalized, Amen,

  2. A copius narrative, replete with blood sucking infestations, garment exchanges and respectful homage to the late Thaadeus Choat, aka, Cornelius Crane and departed wife.
    I confident the day time sorte, was not nearly as exciting, as the night time skermish?

  3. You’re ALL nuts – hilarious, love ya, Betsy Lee 🙂

  4. Who’s Peter?

  5. there is no stronger symbol of friendship than that which transpired that evening!! i saw this this morning but saved it for tonight when i could relax with a vino and thoroughly enjoy your adventure…..peter is superstitious…who knew??
    this story did not disappoint!! and was well worth the wait!!
    hope you survive Thanksgiving as easily as the night hogg island fell to the captains!

  6. Great stories Bob are we going to hear wisky night or the night of the general?Have a great Thanksgiving

  7. Hi Bob And Louise.
    I am at work and cant stop laughing this is a awesome Story!! love it. Funny story Erik and I were at sleepys the other day and there was a gentlemen from a far and I stopped in front of erik and he said what r u stopping for and I said doesnt that look like bob brown? He said” yes kinda I know Bob has had many jobs but I dont think he has sold Mattresses ”
    i thought you would like that . Keep them coming now off to read next post:)

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