Risks of the sea

To the Editor:

Last week’s tragic death of two kayakers in a squall off Mount Desert Island sparked memories of my childhood.

About 60 years ago, I was passing my single-handed sailing test in a Mercury only a few hundred yards off Greening Island on a clear day when suddenly an amazing dark cloud descended out of nowhere.

Faster than summer lightning, the squall hit as I scrambled without success to drop the mainsail. The little sailboat was thrown on its side and started taking water, so I climbed out and hung onto the keel.

The Northeast Harbor Fleet committee boat which had been following me had disappeared from view and my next thought was of having had breakfast with my grandmother that morning and that I would never see her or my family again.

Within a few minutes, the squall moved away, and I was rescued and lived to have another breakfast.

I’m grateful for that experience. It imprinted on me a searing lesson about the extreme unpredictability of weather, especially on the ocean.

It was reinforced 20 years ago when I was skippering a 45-foot sloop off Schooner Head and we were hit by a similar squall, though without the warning of a dark cloud. An untrained crew member was thrown overboard but was uninjured.

It would seem to me that the recent popularity of kayaking would expose even more unsuspecting visitors to the inherent risks of the ocean. Hidden behind the spectacular beauty of this area lies the unexpected and sometimes violent temperaments of the weather.


Bill Patten

Hall Quarry

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