Pine Nuts: Rescue of the ages at Lake of the Sky
It was during the last throws of summer that it happened. The Tahoe Queen had just been beaten by the M.S. Dixie in the Great Sternwheeler Race, a spectacle that will cause a body’s very liver to curl with enjoyment.
The Queen had launched her afternoon cruise toward Emerald Bay when Capt. Augustine noticed a crowded speedboat sitting low in the water.
He grabbed his spyglass, and sure enough, they were taking on water, fast. The top deck bartender, Russ, an accomplished sailor himself, shouted up to the wheelhouse, “Capitan!”
We took a sharp turn to port. A ferocious west wind had turned Lake Tahoe into an uncorked bottle of champagne, and nine Asians visiting Tahoe for the first time, were feeling her bubbles on their legs.
At first blush, it did not appear to be a life threatening situation, but that was about to change. As the Queen approached the distressed speedboat, Captain Augustine caught their radio dispatch, “Beeg boat — Need help! Beeg boat — Need help!”
Capt. Augustine ordered the gangplank lowered and instructed all deckhands to man that gangplank and haul the hapless passengers aboard as they passed beneath, but as misfortune would have it, just as hands were reaching for hands, the speedboat capsized and all aboard splashed into the frigid waters of our Lake of the Sky.
Capt. Augustine shouted for life jackets and ring buoys to be thrown and they went into the air with alacrity.
Miraculously all were able to grab a life preserver, except one. An assist boat appeared from Ski Run Marina and pulled six out of the water. Two more were hauled aboard the Queen.
“How many passengers were aboard your boat?” demanded Capt. Augustine.
“Nine,” came the alarming answer. One was missing.
Meanwhile, the speedboat, now turned wrong-side-up was drifting away. There was one sliver of hope for that missing passenger, that she might be trapped beneath the speedboat, clinging to life.
As the assist vessel approached the overturned speedboat, Matt, a young Marina employee, dived into the water and under the hull, where he felt a leg.
“I thought she was dead,” he later told me. “There was not enough oxygen left under there for me to breathe.”
Matt grabbed her and hauled her from beneath that dirigible into the lifesaving air that Mark Twain described as, “The air that angels breathe.”
She was alive. They hauled her gently into the assist vessel where she collapsed in a puddle of tears.
Matt, meanwhile, is getting married next week, and I hear Aramark is providing him with the “Paradise,” a party boat just made for bachelor parties. I was told Matt’s boss at Ski Run Marina was also quick to compensate Matt for his heroic act.
Were I that young lady, who was moments away from joining Capt. Dick Barter at the bottom of Lake Tahoe, I might give some consideration to naming my first born son, “Matt,” and perhaps my first born daughter, “Augustina” or maybe, “Queenie.”
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.