This may have been the least active year that I can remember. Fortunately, our incidents were few in number and relatively mild in their impact. The major event was a boating crash on Washington Island. The boat was clearly being operated at high speed, passed the wrong side of buoy number "1", and drove up on the west end of Washington Island after dark. There was initial concern, as the operator was not immediately located. However, in the final analysis, there were no major injuries. The boat was significantly damaged and was salvaged the next day without incident. The operator had apparently left the scene, hopefully to secure assistance for himself and the passengers. It could have been much worse.
Wind and high water usually generate a few calls. Boats, docks, trees, and assorted debris are sighted floating down the river and are deemed hazards to navigation. In the case of unoccupied vessels, we must assume that they may have been occupied when they left their moorings, so a search for survivors must be considered. Usually, an owner can be located to make things easier. There were a couple of these events upriver in the Cedar Point area, but they were resolved as soon as the fireboat came on-scene. One boat flooded and sank at the municipal docks in Clayton, but this involved only commercial salvage; there was no one aboard at the time of the sinking.
An unattended boat was discovered near Fishers Landing that had been disabled by a line tangled in the propeller. The owner was found, and no emergency response was required.
Medical calls for the fireboat were also few this year. There were two calls to Round Island; one for difficulty breathing, and another for trauma sustained in a fall downstairs. Both were transported to hospital by the fireboat and land ambulance. There was also a call to stand-by while law enforcement dealt with a domestic dispute on another island. These are not dramatic events, but when they occur on boats or on an island, the logistics and mechanics of providing solutions can become challenging.
We are always aware of the potential for an event that involves commercial shipping. Hundreds of international mariners and thousands of tons of cargo, much of it hazardous, pass through our part of the River every year. The safety record has been commendable, but we still must be vigilant. Events on ships often are complicated by language or cultural barriers, international maritime law, and perception of priorities. Again, we were blessed by an uneventful season, but we also kept the fireboat in the water until well into December, just in case.
Another seasonal concern involves hunting and fishing in this area. It is not unusual for sportsmen to request assistance, but this year it didn't happen that I know of.
Of note was one call of an unusual nature. We received a call indicating that a boater was in distress in the channel near Clayton. Apparently, a wind/kite boarder had been enjoying a fine ride when the wind suddenly died. His options seemed to be to sit and await a breeze or to swim his gear to shore. The current was stronger than the swimmer, and after an hour of trying, he was not making progress. He had apparently been offered assistance but was reluctant to impose on someone else's boat ride. What he could not see, however, was a laker upbound just out of sight behind North Colbourne Island. Observers on shore could see a real problem developing and alerted 911. When he realized the situation, he gladly accepted a ride to shore for himself and his gear. The fireboat arrived but was not needed.
We are delighted to report a season without major fires, injuries, or drownings. Now, if we can just get rid of the curse of Covid, we can look forward to spring and a better 2022.
By Richard L. Withington, MD, January 2021
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. writes articles that provide his special view of the Thousand Islands – and we thank him for this.
His first article for TI Life, A Winter Islander, was published in January 2009. And to date, that is probably the most read of all TI Life articles. To see all of his 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.
However, you don’t have to wait a year for more excitement . . . you can almost sit beside him as he jumps into his boat, “Stormy,” and heads out to one of dozens of accidents. Learn first-hand how important our life saving partners, the Clayton and Gananoque Fire Departments, the Coast Guard and the Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service (TIERS) are to our Thousand Islands. How can you do that? Dick Withington is the author of a simple spiral-bound book: “First Responder” published in 2016. Copies are available by contacting...
By Dick Withington, MD
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