Friday, September 8, 2023

Rescued couple grateful after boat starts sinking on Sebago Lake

By Ed Pierce

What began as a leisurely sunset cruise on Sebago Lake turned into a dramatic rescue and later an affirmation of the goodness of their fellow man for a Windham couple.

Fire/Rescue crews from Standish, Windham and Raymond
bring Brian and Kathleen March of Windham on board to
safety after their boat began taking on water on Sebago
Lake on Aug. 21. The boat was towed to shore in Standish
and the next day some volunteers from Shaw Acres helped
push it out of the water and up onto a trailer for evaluation
by insurance agents. SUBMITTED PHOTO  
On the evening of Monday, Aug. 21, Brian March and his wife, Kathleeen, took their boat out for the first time this summer after extensive work was performed in May on the 22-foot skiff craft they’ve owned for three years. They cruised to Frye Island, watched the sunset from the lake, took some photographs, and then headed along the shoreline by Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. And that’s when the trouble started.

“The motor stalls and I put it in neutral and it stalls again,” Brian March said. “I started playing with throttle when my wife told me there was water in the boat.”

He looked over and saw water in two corners, opened the bilge and saw that it was flooded with water. They looked up a towing company by cell phone, but as water began filling the boat, the couple decided to immediately call 9-1-1. On board the couple had a small hand pump, but they were more than 100 yards from shore and continuing to take on water.

“We had our life jackets on and waited for help to arrive,” Brian March said. “But we feared the boat was going to sink.”

The couple spent some harrowing minutes together waiting for rescue.

In the nick of time, the new Standish Fire/Rescue boat arrived at the scene and latched onto the March’s vessel with rope. In the coming minutes, several other towns’ fire-rescue crews responded to help as Brian and Kathleen March were taken aboard the rescue watercraft and a secure line was affixed to the bow of their boat for towing.

Standish Fire/Rescue brought it to the nearest beach, a private residence on Burke Street in Standish. The resident there allowed them to keep their boat at the site until they figured out what to do with it and he stayed with the couple until Windham Fire/Rescue Chief Brent Libby arrived to give them a ride back to their truck and trailer at Raymond Beach.

The next morning, the couple called a towing service and was quoted a price of $5,000 to haul it away to be evaluated for insurance purposes.

“I told our insurance agent I was looking at other options,” Brian March said. “I thought if we could pump the water out if we had a sump pump, we could do it ourselves and save that expense.”

Scouting out possible locations to lift the boat out of the water, the launch at Shaw Acres seemed to be a possibility. Near the boat launch, Shaw Acres resident Victor Salome brought the couple into his home and got on the phone and called Ralph Morrison of the Shaw Acres Community Association. They looked over the situation and agreed to help the Marchs.

They found a sump pump and hoses to pump out the boat at Windham Rental and pumped the water out of their boat, then waited 20 to 25 minutes while it filled again but stayed above the waterline.

At that point, they decided to turn the boat around and make a short trip across the lake to Shaw Acres with two hand pumps and an electric pump on board just in case water started pouring in again.

“Through God’s grace, we made it,” Katheen March said.

Over a span of four hours, they had brought the boat to Shaw Acres and with the help of four volunteers from Shaw Acres, the couple pushed the boat to the dock, pumped it out a third time and up and onto a 22-foot trailer to be appraised by their insurance company.

“They were all very pleasant and willing to help,” Kathleen March said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

To show their gratitude, the Marchs sent Victor and Ralph and the Shaw Acres Association thank-you cards.

“I’m a person of faith and we were blessed that the boat didn’t take on water faster,” Kathleen March said. “We’re blessed that Standish Fire/Rescue had a new boat and it had the power to pull it to shore. We’re blessed that the landowner let us keep our boat there overnight and we’re blessed that the people of Shaw Acres were kind and wanted to help us. Every step of the way we had gifts and blessings.”

She said she feels lucky to be alive and her faith in the goodness of humanity has been strengthened because of their ordeal on the lake.

“Life is short, assess what you invest your time and money in,” Kathleen March said.

Her husband agrees and says in looking back over everything that happened to them, one thing is clear.

“We may have lost a boat but gained some wonderful new friends,” Brian March said. <

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