Born and raised in Maine, I grew up on a town that sits along the Kennebec River. I’ve always wanted to take a boat down the river but the opportunity did not arise (or I did not aggressively seek it out) until this August. Friends of our take their motorized boat down the river a few times each year. A mere two days after our ocean-based Kennebec River Cruise, we joined our friends at the Gardiner boat launch and headed downriver to Richmond.
The weather was perfect for being out on a boat – blue skies, sun, and no wind to speak of. I found our ride every bit as interesting as I always thought I would, watching men fish, seeing small marinas, noticing wildflowers and wildlife, riding under bridges, and shaking my head at the wealth on display in the form of overly large houses and sweeping, manicured lawns.
We were having such a grand time that we went beyond Richmond for perhaps another half hour (nautical miles would be a more useful measure – let’s say another four or five towns down). We were well aware that the tide was going out. In fact, we lingered in one area to marvel at the rush of water around the rocks and take pictures. Heading back, we intentionally grounded the boat on the side of an island to have the sandwich lunch we’d packed. We only see these friends a few times a year, and three of the four of us are big talkers, so we really got carried away with ourselves and FORGOT THE TIDE WAS GOING OUT.
By the time we realized our predicament, 900 pounds of boat were mired in clay. The four of us could not budge the boat. No way. No how. It was mid-afternoon and I did not relish the thought of being stranded until the tide turned, if only because I’d need to call in a huge favor to get help with my two dogs and I’d already used the favor for the day. (Plus, I’d already eaten my sandwich and I get hungry fast and furious and then all bets are off.)
It was a Saturday and there were plenty of other boats on the river, several of which had begun to slow down to stare. I have no pride and no shame, so I busted out the damsel in distress moves – waving my arms and probably shouting (don’t quite remember). Three boats pulled in and four men and one very strong woman added their muscle (and presumably sacrificed the well-being of their bare feet), to help heave and rock us to eventual freedom. It took about 45 minutes and I was afraid that some of our team members might have a heart attack, such was the exertion. I’m smallish, so mostly I dug out the clay when it piled up after each roll and push, and I coordinated the team with the count of three and some general purpose cheering. I tugged for all I was worth, but I’m not sure it was much. There was collateral damage to muscles and flesh. Cut and bruised feet. Flesh torn from palms and fingers (ever looked at a gymnasts hands once she’s gotten off the uneven bars?) Very, very sore bodies for a few days. But things could have turned out much, much worse and we are so grateful that strangers gave their time, their best health, their clean clothes and their pleasant attitudes to help us. Surely they thought us fools – and we were.
I don’t blame our friends for what happened. Why would I? There were four adults present – eating and chatting while the tide went out and the boat got stuck. Maybe next year we’ll try it again, but if we do we will remember that the river is tidal, and tides wait for no man.