2015-09-11 / In the Know

Strong currents prompt warning signs

By B. Michael Thurlow Special to the Leader

For generations those that boat, kayak, or otherwise recreate in the Scarborough, Nonesuch or Dunstan rivers know how strong the tide and currents run, particularly during certain astronomical tide cycles.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of visitors that come to our community each summer to enjoy the beach and water don’t understand that.

For most, a 10 to 12-foot tide is something they have never experienced and know little about.

Each year the fire department’s marine rescue team responds to multiple incidents, many of which are due to the strong currents and tides in the rivers.

One prime example of this was back on Monday Aug. 3 when Marine Resource Officer David Corbeau was out on the harbor master/marine rescue boat by himself gathering routine water samples from various locations in the river for testing at the state lab.

He was about to take his last sample when he observed four kayakers in trouble near the railroad trestle going over the Dunstan River.

That day, the wind was gusting over 25 mph from the south and we were experiencing an astronomically high tide running approximately 17 knots.

The combination of heavy southerly winds blowing right up the river and a strong incoming tide created a very dangerous situation for the four kayakers, some of whom were not wearing personal floatation devices.

As Corbeau approached the kayakers he could tell they needed assistance.

Two of them were stuck between the pilings under the railroad trestle in danger of capsizing, and two others were about to be sucked into the trestle with tremendous force.

Corbeau positioned the boat against the trestle upriver from the victims and rescued the husband and his wife who had capsized just prior to going through the trestle.

He was also able to free the other two kayakers that were stuck in the pilings so they could proceed up river safely on their own, where they were assisted by fire/EMS personnel.

Corbeau single-handedly rescued four indi- viduals from drowning that day because there was simply no time to call for assistance, and he deserves to be commended for that effort.

A couple weeks later we were contacted by a family from Old Orchard that was enjoying the day on the beach in Pine Point during low tide. Their 9-year-old daughter, a strong competitive swimmer, and her dad decided to swim from the area near the end of the jetty to the large sandbar that runs perpendicular to the beach and extends from the end of the jetty all the way to the area across from Prouts Neck Yacht Club. Once again, a strong incoming tide swept both dad and daughter out into the main channel of the river where they struggled to get back to shore safely.

In response to these and other incidents the town has purchased and installed new signs warning of fast tides and strong currents. They have been installed on the eastern end of Pine Point Beach, near the jetty, and Ferry Beach, where similar conditions exist.

The Scarborough River and our beaches are beautiful locations and provide ample opportunity for a wide range of recreational activities. Please use caution and respect Mother Nature’s forces when wind and strong tides often create very dangerous situations.

For more information or to ask questions about this article or any fire department issue, ontact me at mthurl@ci.scarborough. me.us or 730-4201.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough.

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