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Would you like Duct Tape with that Ice?

Many years ago, I worked on Eastern Long Island (Hampton Bays) as a part-time "go-fer" on the docks of a local marina that catered mostly to a wealthy cabin cruiser clientele. We had only a few paddlers come by, mostly canoers either going out on the tidal flats of Peconic Bay to fish, or into the salt marshes to duck hunt in the fall. Most of these paddlers came in pairs and the only reason they came by our dock from the public boat launch opposite us was to get ice for their coolers. We didn't sell ice cubes in those days. The ice came in blocks which you broke off to a size you wanted, weighed the block and paid by the pound. The blocks were handled with gloves and by ice tongs shaped like calipers. You lifted the ice by one of the handles and the pressure forced the tongs to come together and hold the ice.

It was a very busy Saturday morning and I was refueling a large cruiser and was not permitted to leave the fuel nozzle pumping and run other errands. A very impatient pair of canoeists was pestering me for ice and I told them I would get to it as soon as the refueling was done (a large cruiser can take a couple of hundred gallons in multiple tanks) Unwilling to wait, canoer #1 went to the icebox (a large locker) and picked up his ice block, weighed it and brought it to his canoe where canoer #2 was waiting to receive it standing in the canoe tied to the dock. The canoe was about 4 feet below the level of the dock which was set up to mesh with the deck height of larger craft. Before I could shout a warning, the handoff of the ice took place with canoer #2 carefully grabbing both of the ice tong handles while standing in the canoe. Grabbing both handles of the tongs releases the pressure and the large jagged block of ice dropped straight into the bottom of the canoe from a height of 4 feet or so. Had it been an aluminum canoe, this might not have been bad, but it was a canvas and wood frame canoe and the ice hit on edge, splintered a rib and gashed a big slit in the canvas whereupon the canoe started to take on water with canoer #2 standing in the now sinking boat.

However the canoe was still tied by a bowline so as it slowly sunk, it did so stern first while remaining suspended by the bowline. Canoer #1, trying to be helpful, grabbed his buddy's hand. However, Canoer #1 was much smaller than was #2 who yanked hard to get assistance to get out of the boat. This had the effect of dragging the rescuer over the edge of the dock headfirst into the sinking canoe where he landed, rather heavily, against his friend who lost what balance he had left, and both then simply fell over the side of the now partially suspended canoe. This whole event unfolded like slow motion probably in less than 20 seconds. It was like an Abbott and Costello short film.

I shut off the gas pump, ran over and stood trying to figure out what to do to help. The cruiser crowd thought it was very, very funny and once I found the canoers were alright, I was sufficiently relieved to find humor in the situation as well. I don't think the canoers were at all amused by the situation however. PS, I never did collect for the ice!!! Figured that was going too far. I always wished I had a picture of that situation so I could post it on the ice locker door though. Picture is worth a thousand words of caution.

Submitted by: Ralph E. Thayer, New Orleans, LA


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