EASTPORT — Two local fishermen who just happened to be in the right place rescued four vacationers and their overloaded boat from the icy waters of Passamaquoddy Bay Tuesday afternoon.
Reid Wilson of Eastport and Jeff Lewis of Cutler were fishing off Cherry Island just past noon Tuesday when, Wilson said Wednesday, “I saw this aluminum boat, a 16-footer with four pretty big fellows in it, come roaring by, bouncing all over the place, way up on one side. It was unbelievable. I said, `My God, that boat’s going right over,’ and it sure did. Just flipped up and dumped them all out.”
Wilson fired up his 20-foot Eastporter and raced about 200 yards to the overturned boat. “I’m 63,” Wilson said. “I’m some glad Jeff was with me. Three of those fellows were pretty big, at least 200 pounds. They were hanging on the boat, but were really shaking, really numb. I never could have got them out by myself. I was exhausted as it was.”
After they hauled the four into Wilson’s boat, Wilson and Lewis bailed out the aluminum boat and towed it into Eastport harbor. “They were so glad to get back to land, they didn’t even wait to step over the bow to the dock,” Wilson said. “They jumped out in waist-deep water and waded in. They were kind of in a daze.”
Wilson said he checked on the four men Wednesday, “and they were in pretty good shape. I never got their names, but they’re from Pennsylvania. They all thanked me about a million times. It’s funny, but they didn’t look so big today. I’m a commercial fisherman, and I’ll tell you, that’s why I don’t think much of aluminum boats. There’s a lot of tide out there; those boats are just too light. We just happened to be in the right place. It’s lucky; Jeff and I were just talking about going in.”
Lewis credits Wilson for the save. “The man knows how to handle a boat,” said Lewis. “When he saw what happened, he didn’t hesitate for a second. He flew over to them and and pulled right up. They were only in the water about two minutes.”
The water temperature in the bay is now about 48 degrees. Lewis, a Maine game warden who fishes with Wilson on his days off, said the four “definitely had the early signs of hypothermia.”