Well, the "nylons are in the shower" again, so it’s time for the annual, informal report of what happened on the River last summer, which some of you may have missed.
For those of you who have forgotten, the "nylons in the shower" expression is how we announce the passing of autumn, with its warm, sunny days and colorful leaves, and the arrival of "FALL". This is our fifth season of the year, and it is characterized by gales, dark clouds, lake-effect snow, and COLD.
The "nylons..." expression refers to the season when all boaters must have two sets of dock lines. Once the lines get wet with spray, rain or snow, they freeze and become almost useless. The standard drill is to keep a dry, warm set in the boathouse. When you arrive, the dry lines are used to secure the boat, and the wet ones are re-located to the shower compartment so they can thaw and dry for use the next time. This season lasts until freeze-up, when there is no longer any dock or harbor you can access, and therefore, it is time to hang the boat and declare the arrival of WINTER.
Once the nylons are hanging, I like to write a little summary of the summer as I saw it. Propriety precludes my telling all the stories, but some of you will recognize yourselves, and hopefully, chuckle.
Launch this year was two weeks late, occurring on April 7th. It didn't take long for the fun to begin. Two days later I docked against an ice shelf near Bearup's Bay to pick up charters who walked across the ice to get into the boat and come to the island.
On April 14th there was an URGENT call for assisting a small boat that had lost power and was drifting near Calumet Island. The wind had kicked-up from the south, and blown the disabled boat across the channel, ahead of a tug/barge unit. We were taking some spray and having some difficulty locating the boat, but just then the captain of the tug, Wilf Seymour, called on the radio and said he had them on the radar. He was able to direct us right to them, and the problem was solved without further difficulty. How fortunate we are to have the eyes and attention of professional mariners on the River, to lend a hand like that. I know that I speak for the rescued, as well as myself, in expressing our appreciation.
Much of the spring and summer was spent helping to clear the debris from the December ice storm. Many trees on the islands had "hangers" that had broken but not fallen. One large tree landed on a boathouse. It was removed with the assistance of a crane.
The Seaway was very active. A large tug grounded near Quebec Head in June, and then there was the much publicized problem of the Federal Kivalina that lost steering just above the 1000 Islands Bridge. It is a credit to the professionals that were involved that there were no injuries or significant damage to the environment. Both problems were resolved promptly and with a minimum of disruption.
As usual, the fireboat was very active. Without going into details, I counted eight Search and Rescue calls, six fire calls, fifteen EMS calls, and an assortment of training/public relations activities.
There were seven EMS calls to Grindstone Island, five to Round Island, and one each to Maple and Murray. The calls included two nasal hemorrhages; two breathing emergencies, one possible stroke, two significant knee injuries, and one major heart attack. This latter was reported in “Testimonial: Saving a Life” a prior edition of www.thousandislandslife.com. It was notable for its remote location, difficulty of extrication (out a bedroom window), and helicopter evacuation directly from the scene to Syracuse.
Metropolitan EMS responders may not appreciate how often we wind-up carrying a victim over rough terrain to get to an ambulance, and extrication of a victim from a boat is much different from dealing with a car accident and the "Jaws of Life". An unusual problem was presented by a dog that was temporarily paralyzed and was evacuated by stretcher down a steep incline to a waiting boat. The dog recovered, but it had to be an emotional trauma for her.
Of much greater impact was the tragic vehicle accident that resulted in an island fatality. We are all indebted to the prompt services of TIERS, (Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service) in dealing with the health emergencies of the River folks.
The fire department provides transportation and manpower, but we'd be lost without the Paramedics and EMTs who ride on virtually every fireboat call.
The horrific fire at Thousand Island Park in mid-August was a real challenge. Because the fire involved the Wellesley Island Fire Department, mutual aid was the major source of help. When the water mains ruptured, water pumped from the River was supplying all the pumpers and the aerial platforms. My rough math works out to about 3.6 million gallons or 225 tons of water, pumped by Last Chance, during that nighttime blaze. Given the brisk west wind and the near-by exposures, we were all lucky that it was not worse. Through mutual aid, Wellesley Island Fire Department and Rescue Squad were back in service, in a matter of hours, after the fire was out. Great community effort!
Frink Pier was busy this year with visits from the cruise ship, Pearl Mist, and visits by tall ships and large yachts. The misadventures of one smaller recreational vessel led to a HAZMAT alert at the village docks. Fortunately, this was managed promptly, and there was no damage to the environment. It turned out to be an excellent drill, however. Multiple agencies responded and eventually resolved the issues.
Politically, the Area Maritime Security Committee met once, and this helped in developing working relations among the various law enforcement agencies that serve our River. By and large, I think the Customs and Immigration and the Border Patrol have been more effective, without being intrusive. That's a difficult balance, and it is appreciated. Commercial towing and salvage has taken its place among the responders, to river events, and has interfaced well with law enforcement and fire/rescue. When their job gets accomplished, without great notoriety or fanfare, then one is assured that it was done well.
In reference to the buoy and chain described in a prior issue, (Do You Know Where Your Buoy is tonight? Are You Losing Your Markers?)
No one has come forward to claim it or explain where it came from. Best guesses at this point are 1) a relic from the Seaway construction in the 1950's, or 2) Lime Barrel Shoal, near Henderson Harbor. I suspect it is very old.
Stay warm and dry, and we'll see you in the spring.
By Richard L. Withington, Round Island
Dr. Richard (Dick) L. Withington is a retired Orthopedic Surgeon and is best known on the River for his rescue work with his boat “Stormy.” Each winter Dr. W. write articles that provide his special view of the Thousand Islands – and we thank him for this.
Dick’s first article for TI Life, A Winter Islander, was published in January 2009. To see all of Dick’s island experiences, search TI Life under Richard L. Withington. Also be sure to see The Doctor is in, February 2012 written by Kim Lunman, writer and publisher of Island Life, a print magazine.
Editor’s Note: Want to support the wonderful rescue services on the River. Be sure to contribute to the TI-Rescue LifeSaver Fund.