Mystery!.......It was just before sunrise when my phone unexpectedly rang. Dark thoughts run through your head in the instant it takes to find and answer. Early morning calls are rarely good news and this proved to be no exception. The familiar voice precluded introductions,....”Get right to the point quickly,” I thought.
The voice was terse." Doc, we've got a boat aground on Steele's Point. I don't see anyone around, but the lights and radio are on. I'm going aboard to see if anyone is hurt. You're my backup."
As I was lacing my boots, I was running the list. What might be needed; cell phone, hand-held VHF, flashlight, warm hat and gloves.
A quick trip to shore followed. The situation was as described. An I-O bow-rider with the propeller ground to a hub, lights on, radio playing a local station, engine off, but still warm. No sign of the occupants. We notified 911, concerned over the obvious damage to the boat, and the missing person/s.
Soon the area was alive with early-rising first-responders.
. . . EMS was disregarded, since there was no apparent injury or health hazard.
. . . Fire service also returned to quarters to await further developments.
. . . Land-based law enforcement agencies coordinated their investigations; tracing registration numbers, looking for witnesses, interviewing the neighbors, and looking for anyone trying to get out of town.
. . . US Coast Guard initiated the water search for persons or evidence in the River or along the shorelines of the islands. Because the boat was registered in Canada, authorities, there, were enlisted to help find the owner and last known location of the boat.
. . . Canadian Coast Guard responded vigorously, sending the cutter, Cape Herne from Kingston and a rescue helicopter from the Rescue Coordination Center in Trenton, Ontario to assist in the search.
As far as I know, nothing of interest was found.
At about this time it became apparent that the vessel had been stolen from a marina in the Gananoque area.
So here's the deal: Some person/s committed theft in Canada, left under the cover of darkness, breached our security measures, and entered the US illegally. They also left the scene of a boating incident in the US. They cost the taxpayers on both sides of the border, and raised our level of uneasiness. They seem to have just disappeared.
I'll let you, the readers, write the conclusion. Feel free to use your imaginations.
- Was it a wayward teen who "borrowed" a boat with the keys in it for a joy ride?
- How about an abused or disenchanted spouse looking to start a new life in a new country?
- Maybe someone illegally in Canada who felt the need to keep moving without leaving much of a trail?
- Perhaps someone who had a plan to enter the US quietly to accomplish some devious activity?
You get the idea. I was reluctant to write about this as it is still a fresh event. I have told nothing that is not already common knowledge in the media. My purpose is to help make you aware of the vigor with which the authorities respond to such events, to applaud their efforts, to encourage the cross-border cooperation that is needed to keep us safe, and to re-emphasize that they cannot fully do their job without the help of the folks who live and work along the River.
You have heard it before so here it is again, “If you see something, say something".
By Dr. Richard Withington
Dr. Richard Withington is a retired Orthopaedic Surgeon, living out a childhood dream spending his winters alone at the head of Round Island. The Withingtons close their cottage known as "Rivercroft" in October and Dick moves into the former servants' quarters, "Wintercroft". His old but faithful Siberian Husky, Stormy. and a rescued Siamese cat Mylie keep him company. His boat, also called Stormy is ready for action, no matter the weather. The Sheriff's office will call him directly if and when there is a problem. This is his fifth article for TI Life.