By Wayne Hooper SeaCoast online
As boating season shifts into high gear, I have a story for you. This was told to me by a customer at work as we shot the breeze about the great outdoors. I will call him Fred to protect his identity.
One warm, sunny day a few years ago, he and a few friends decided to go out fishing off of York for some haddock. They journeyed down the York River in their boat and while rigging their rods they quaffed a beer or two. Heading out of the harbor they set a course for the area around Boone Island and tossed down a couple of more beers. When they reached their destination, the fishing was fast and furious and the beer was nice and cold against the hot July day.
As the day wore on, fishing slowed down, so up came the anchor and they headed to another area. The captain of the boat shoved the throttle forward and the boat lurched out of the water. Fred went over the back of the boat and under water. He opened his eyes and for a moment didn?t know where he was. He saw bubbles and realized he was under the surface. He told me he sobered up fast.
Upon returning to the surface he looked for the boat, but it had left the area at a high rate of speed and all he could see was the stern getting smaller and smaller. He was alone, bobbing up and down like a cork in the water. Luckily he had taken some life-saving courses so he quickly took off his shirt and got as much air into it as he could. Then he took off his pants and did the same thing. He told himself not to panic, which was hard to do under the circumstances, and tried to find land, a buoy, a boat or some flotsam to hang on to.
Meanwhile, the rest of his fishing party and the boat was now out of sight. He began to swim, but knew he couldn?t make it to shore. For an hour he bobbed and swam. He was quietly telling himself this was the end. After all, his buddies hadn?t returned so they didn?t even know he had fallen overboard and no one else knew where he was. Not one boat had come anywhere near him.
Time passed when suddenly he heard a noise and tried to determine what direction it was coming from. Soon the noise got louder and he heard people yelling. He put his arms up as far as he could and waved. His buddies had returned to the area and found him.
He got back on the boat and got out of his wet clothes. He was shivering but the sun warmed him up quickly.
After retelling the story they decided to head back to the dock.
The captain of the boat set the course and began the run to the harbor. The captain?s teenage son crawled up to the front of the boat and dangled his legs over the side. Fred asked him not to do that as it was dangerous. The boy replied that he had done it numerous times before without a problem.
Not long after this conversation, the boat hit a wake, followed by the second wake that was larger. When the third wake hit the boat, the teenager fell off the bow and under the boat. Bump, bump and thump as the boy hit the bottom of the boat twice and then the engine and prop. The boat was stopped, but he was nowhere to be found. Fred, without hesitation, dove overboard and went under looking for the boy. To this day, he doesn?t know how he was lucky enough to have spotted him, but he did. He grabbed his shirt and came back up to the surface.
After getting him back on board he told the father to get to shore as quickly as possible. The boy was shooting blood out of veins on his wrist and arm, plus bleeding from many more cuts throughout his body. As it turned out he had severed a tendon in his wrist and a vein in his arm. He had cuts on his face and head and was in shock. Fred took off his T-shirt and held it against the kid?s arm while telling the rest of the guys to use their shirts to stop any bleeding elsewhere.
While the father was running into the harbor and trying to see if his son was still alive, he ran smack into a huge underwater rock that pitched the boat up onto the rock and threw everyone forward. Fred hit the console with his head and shoulder. Later he would realize that he had dislocated his shoulder. Shaking the cobwebs from his head, Fred jumped out onto the rock and told the captain that he was going to push as hard as he could, and when he did to rev the engines in reverse to free the boat. It worked, and they started up the river to the dock.
Fred told him to keep the speed up so that the hole would stay above the waterline and not sink. Then he told him to drive the boat as far up on shore as he could. When they reached the area where the dock and their cars were parked, the captain gunned the boat and they went well up on shore. Fred jumped out and, carrying the son, got in the car as they raced to the York Hospital.
Arriving at the emergency room they couldn?t get in and had to race around to the front door. When the nurse on duty saw them she notified everyone and doctors, nurses and emergency crew took over. Once they threw the son on a gurney they turned to Fred and put him on one also. He told them he didn?t need it as the blood he was covered in was from the teenager.
After surgery and a long recovery period, including therapy on his wrist and fingers, the son has recovered enough to enjoy his life.
When Fred told me this story he said that if it hadn?t been for the emergency first aid course that he had taken, he believes the son would not have survived.
What caused this situation? A combination of drinking, speed and not paying attention.
As we approach the busy boating season in the Seacoast, remember this story and drive carefully.
Wayne Hooper is a member of the New England Outdoors Writers Association and a lifelong Seacoast resident. He can be reached at [email protected]