Man the Life Boats
Man the Life Boats
by Dick Mauer
I'm going to tell of an event that could have been potentially very embarrassing but one that turned out OK. It happened on the Buffalo Sector Border Patrol boat "Newton Azrak" sometime in the early 1990s. The sector call sign for the boat was B-104 and she came new to the Sector around 1980 or maybe, a little earlier. B-104 was a 26 foot Penn Yan cruiser with tunnel drive (thought to be a curse), a flying bridge, and twin inboard Chryslers
accessible through deck doors in a large area behind the cabin. She was
fitted with radar and the tunnel drive allowed her to go in shallow
water, but made steering less than crisp.
Jim Carroll was a Supervisory Agent and small boat operator in the
Buffalo Station and I was the PAIC. Late one summer weekday we were
advised that the Sector would have some high profile guests the next day
in the person of Hugh Brien, then the Chief of the Border Patrol and his
friend and guest, the head Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The head Constable was touring the United States at the invitation of
and accompanied by Chief Brien. Buffalo Sector Chief Bill Dickman asked
Jim and I to have B-104 spic and span the next morning and ready to give
the three of them a water tour of the Sector's Niagara River boundary.
We had the boat standing tall the next morning and received a radio
message to pick up the group at 11am at the Big 6 Marina on Grand
Island's West Niagara River.
The channel from the Big 6 Marina came out on the West Branch of the
Niagara River about 1 mile above the falls and the column of mist rising
from the falls was directly in front of you as you entered the river. It
was close, UNOIMSAYIN! The tour went off without a hitch giving the
group a cruise of the east and west branch of the river on a bright,
sunny late summer day. We put back into the Marina and deposited our
guests on the dock in time for their lunch or equivalent.
Now the good part. As they were pulling away Jim and I headed back out
on the river to return B-104 to our marina, about 6 miles upriver.
About 5 minutes into this trip we noticed that the boat seemed to be
lugging and not making much headway against the river's strong current.
Jim climbed down from the bridge to open the deck doors to check the
engines. When he opened them up the engine fans were putting up a 20
foot fountain of water. Jim shouted that the engine compartment was
FLOODED! I turned on the bilge pump and Jim said he could see a hole in
the bottom of the boat. He yelled for a towel and then layed down on the
deck and stuffed the towel in the hole, just like the dutch kid, and
held it there. I steered for the U.S. shore line, trying to get to the
shallows where I knew we (or at least me) could make it ashore in case
she went down. (Love that tunnel drive)
We couldn't tell if the bilge pump was working because the bilge outlet
was submerged. Jim suggested that I radio sector and have them advise
our Marina to have the slings ready to pull the boat out of the water if
we made it that far. We hugged the shoreline and made it to the slings.
We ultimately found that a through hull device had somehow loosened and
fell out, thus the hole. Jim always said that my radio call voice on
that transmission was about 2 octaves above normal. (Hey., we were
sinking in the middle of the Niagara River, 1 short mile from the falls!
Say what you want)
Reflecting on it later we realized that if these events had happened 5
minutes earlier or if we had extended our earlier tour we would have had
the Chief of the Border Patrol and the Head of the Royal Ulster
Constabulary on board and would have probably answered the prayers of
the IRA and La Raza at the same time. Jim and I thought about this for a
while and decided to go for coffee.