Friday, July 26, 2013

Escape from the S.S. Minnow

Just sit right back
And you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny ship.

The "tropic port" was the South Arm of Richardson Lake in the Rangeley Lakes region of Maine. The "tiny ship" was a very safe looking pontoon boat. The month was July 2013.

The mate was a mighty sailin' man,
The Skipper brave and sure,
Five passengers set sail that day,
For a three hour tour,
A three hour tour.

Our Captain
Among the passengers who set sail that day were my husband, Hank, and I, our friend, Rosalie, and eight or nine other unsuspecting South Arm campers. Our skipper was definitely brave and sure; he had been born in Andover, Maine and grown up on the lakes. We were off on an evening tour of the lake and its two dams.  The sun was out and the sky was clear; a perfect night for a 17 mile boat ride.

Our friend, Rosalie

The weather started getting rough,
The tiny ship was tossed.
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Minnow would be lost.
The Minnow would be lost.

We had just left Middle Dam when the sky got eerily dark...

Before we knew it, our little boat was in the middle of a violent thunder and lightning storm with golf-ball size hail. Our captain got very serious, pointing out the location of the life jackets as he cranked the engines to try to get us to land.
We didn't make it.  What started out as fun became a watery nightmare. Lightning was striking within feet of our boat and the wind, rain and hail pounded us relentlessly.  The only safe place to dock was still miles down the lake. We all took cover as best we could ...under benches or huddled together on the floor of the boat. After one especially loud crack of thunder, Rosalie, who  had been sitting on the other side of the boat,, rushed across the deck to cower seek protection under Hank's jacket, where I was already hiding, my eyes closed tight against the storm.
As we finally approached the shore, the storm was at its height. Rather than attempting to dock the boat, the captain just aimed it right up onto the beach and yelled, "Jump!" Visions of my dad's stories about beach landings on D-Day swirled around in my head.
When it was my turn to jump, I hesitated a second too long...until, over the roar of the storm,  I heard the woman behind me yell, "For God's sake, will you just JUMP!?!" So I did...not at all gracefully...and landed right behind Hank and Rosalie in about three feet of muddy water. We half swam, half-waded to shore and found shelter in a Tiki Hut at the campground, hugging each other and asking if this whole thing had just been a bad dream. It still didn't feel quite real.
Cheryl & Rosalie...soaked but back on land!
It seems that every time Hank and I camp at Rangeley, we find ourselves in the most ridiculous situations. The first year we got lost on the top of a mountain with our camper and had to back all the way down. The next year, I ended up stuck in a Scotty trailer with one of Maine's gubernatorial candidates, who happened to be in his boxer shorts. And this year, the boat tour from Hell.
What can I say, Goofy things just seem happen!


  1. That must have been so terrifying, Cheryl. I'd be praying so hard and crying and clinging to my husband. I'm glad you all got ashore safely. Great post and pictures.

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