Southampton Bayman Gets Back On The Water

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Seven months after losing his commercial vessel, the Elizabeth J, to the ocean after it was struck by another boat south of the Shinnecock Inlet, 63-year-old Jeff Kraus of Southampton is about ready to return to his old fishing grounds.

Mr. Kraus, who has been a bayman since 1976, recently purchased a 45-foot fiberglass boat in Shippagan, New Brunswick. The vessel, which was built in 1988, was previously used as a shrimping boat and frequently fished the waters off Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Since purchasing his new boat, which will be used for hauling in scallops, squid, mixed fish and ground fish, Mr. Kraus has decided to name it the Alisha J.—after his daughter.

Multiple trips were made both on land and in the water to prepare the Alisha J, which Mr. Kraus acquired on September 16 for $90,000, for its 42-hour journey late last month from Canada to its new home at the Southampton Town Commercial Fishing Dock on Dune Road in Hampton Bays.

Prior to completing that trip, however, Mr. Kraus needed to make some repairs and properly fit his new commercial boat, so he immediately made a three-day journey to Meteghan, Nova Scotia.

“We closed on the boat at 3 p.m., and by 4 p.m. we were shoving off,” Mr. Kraus recalled during a recent interview. “There were a lot of loose ends on this boat, but I had to get it to Meteghan to get started.”

Once the boat was outfitted with electronics and a new winch, and a few other modifications were completed to fit his style of fishing, Mr. Kraus and his two-man crew—Charles Moschini, 68, from Upper Montclair, New Jersey, and Bob Draudt, 65, from Meadville, Pennsylvania—headed for open water to make the trip to Long Island.

“The first 24 hours was perfect—blue skies, sunny and calm,” said Mr. Moschini, a retired general contractor who also worked in catering. “The second day was completely different. The boat was 100-percent sound, but isn’t meant to be out there in a washing machine.”

During their trip south, the crew endured nasty conditions, including 12- to 15-foot seas that tossed their boat around like a toy in a bathtub. But it endured.

According to Mr. Moschini, nobody grew sick, though the journey proved to be exhausting. The last four hours of the trip, he noted, were the roughest part. “It wasn’t frightening,” he explained. “It was more of a, when is this going to end?”

The crew was happy to spot the Shinnecock Inlet after going through such rough seas, which turned out to be an adventure in itself in terms of navigating, according to Mr. Kraus. “When we came through the inlet, we were surfing the waves,” he said. “This boat’s 50 tons, and the waves were picking it up. It was a fitting ending to our landing.”

Mr. Krause grew up in Uniondale and graduated from Villanova University in Pennsylvania with an engineering degree in 1974. After working as an engineer for about six months, he decided to quit to pursue a life on the water.

“I bought a clam rake, a broken-down skiff for $100, and a broken-down motor for $100, and never looked back,” said the bayman of nearly 40 years. “I used to surf a lot and had a buddy that I used to surf with. I started clamming as a natural progression.”

He purchased the Elizabeth J, a 43-foot commercial fishing boat, in the mid-1990s and named it after his daughter, Alisha Elizabeth, and his son, John. It also made berth at the commercial fishing dock prior to its sinking in May, when it was hit by another boat in foggy conditions about 17 nautical miles south of the Shinnecock Inlet, in approximately 150 feet of water.

No injuries were reported, but the crew had to abandon the Elizabeth J.

Mr. Kraus, who was not aboard at the time of the accident, said his vessel was traveling at about 3 knots and fishing for scallops when his captain, Michael Mason of Hampton Bays, spotted the 48-foot Stradivarius on the boat’s radar approaching at a much faster pace—roughly 20 knots. At the time of the accident, visibility was about a quarter of a nautical mile due to foggy conditions, according to the Coast Guard.

Originally lacking the desire to get another boat, Mr. Kraus said he seriously thought about cashing in his chips and calling it a career. He said it took him about two weeks to stop feeling sorry for himself and change his mind.

He then began searching for a replacement vessel on the website for TriNav Marine Brokerage, a company that specializes in arranging and negotiating Atlantic Canadian commercial fishing boats, and soon found the future Alisha J.

“As a business, the Elizabeth J was like a well-oiled machine. Here, I’m starting from scratch,” Mr. Kraus said. “A boat is like a woman. They have their quirks and personality, and this is like getting married again.”

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