SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Noted boatbuilder Ralph Stanley and his wife, Marion, are safe after being rescued Tuesday when their 33-foot powerboat struck a ledge near Seawall Point.
On Wednesday, Ralph Stanley said the couple was heading to Rockland in their boat Seven Girls to attend the Friendship sloop races there when the vessel struck the submerged ledge sometime around 11 a.m., about a half hour after high tide. Conditions at the time were described as foggy.
“I’ve hit ledges before,” the retired 86-year-old said. “But I’ve always been able to back off.”
This time he wasn’t as fortunate. When it became apparent that the boat was stuck on the ledge with the tide going down, Ralph Stanley called the boatyard his son, Richard Stanley, owns in Tremont. After notifying the U.S. Coast Guard, Richard Stanley and his father-in-law, Kim Strauss, headed to the scene in Strauss’s motor launch.
The Coast Guard arrived first in their 25-foot inflatable response boat. According to a Coast Guard press release, shoal water kept them from getting close to Seven Girls. That prompted Coast Guard personnel to call Southwest Harbor harbormaster Adam Thurston for help, thinking the town’s boat would draw less water. Thurston said he responded, but Richard Stanley already had arrived, and Thurston’s help was not needed.
At some point, Ralph Stanley and his wife ended up in the water. He was in his boat’s dinghy and helping his wife lower herself from Seven Girls when the small boat overturned.
“It was my doing,” Marion Stanley admitted.
Fortunately, the couple could stand on the ledge and grip a handrail on Seven Girls as the water was waist-deep. That’s when the Coast Guard sent Petty Officer Calvin Legge, a rescue swimmer, into the water. Legge was able to help the couple onto Strauss’s boat. They were transferred to the Coast Guard boat and taken to the Manset Town Dock, where emergency medical personnel determined they had no medical issues.
Seven Girls was floated off the ledge Tuesday evening and taken to Richard Stanley Custom Boats. The wooden vessel was hauled Wednesday morning.
Damage is minimal, Ralph Stanley said. The keel is “chewed up a little” and a bilge plank damaged from the boat lying on its side. Richard Stanley is to refasten some of the planks and do some caulking. Ralph Stanley said he expects to be back in the water soon.
Seven Girls is a special boat to Ralph Stanley. He built the lobsterboat for his father in 1960. His father used the boat for 10 years, after which it went to a series of owners and was “used rough.” About 20 years ago, while moored in Southwest Harbor, another vessel collided with the boat. Ralph Stanley bought the damaged vessel and restored it for his own use.
He is philosophical about the boating accident.
“When you fool around with boats, you’re bound to end up in the water sometime,” he said.