Bobbing on the gentle waves of Casco Bay, we quietly willed the situation not to deteriorate.
We were riding in a borrowed, eight-person motorboat. We had spent the morning cruising the coast. We were passing Diamond Cove and aiming for home and nap time.
Out of the corner of my eye, I then saw what looked like a large string of knuckles grazing the surface of the water. Seconds later, I heard scraping along the hull. Then the engine ground to a stop, and we all snapped forward and back, as if we were in a car that had just stopped short.
We had hit a rock.
I turned and looked at my husband. He was at the wheel, his mother beside him, and I was sitting just in front, with both children. I big-blinked him, and then we sprang into the best versions of calm, collected action we could muster.
He brought the engine out of the water to examine it. I chatted with the kids, exclaiming about the excitement of an adventure. We both ignored my mother-in-law’s questions about what was wrong, what was broken, what were we going to do?
My husband tried the engine once, then twice, and finally a third time. We realized we needed a new plan. The engine was not working, and there was no reason to think we were going to be able to get it to work.
We divided in hopes of conquering again. I regaled the children with stories about all of the things Papi had ever fixed in his life. He began tuning the short-wave radio, so that we could alert the marina.
The radio stayed silent. Not a single channel returned even a crackle of reassurance. The silence coming out of that little hand-held device felt heavy.
The things we had going for us: it was warm and sunny. Studying the shore, I knew exactly where we were, which was about a mile from where we needed to be. None of us was hurt.
Looking back, we would quickly come to appreciate that last piece of luck. Over the course of the morning, our children had been sitting on the bow of the boat. They had been standing up and walking around. We had gone faster than a Sunday-cruise pace.
When we hit the rock, though, both children were sitting in my embrace. I happened to be bracing us, with my legs locked against the seat in front of us. We were going at a moderate speed at best.
Sitting here today, in the comfort of my living room, on a Sunday just like that one, I do not even want to imagine what might have happened if any of those facts were not reality.
We still had no engine or radio, so I pulled out my phone. I managed to dial the marina office. No answer. I dialed again. Answer.
I explained our situation. The woman on the other end told me to radio it in. I reminded her that the situation I just described included a radio that didn’t work. Then we got disconnected.
Frustration became the mother of invention. We took my son’s Falmouth Firefighting baseball hat off his head and began waving it in the air. That’s when a fishing boat the size of my dining room table, with an engine the size of my soup bowl, spotted us.
That little vessel-that-could towed us from the Falmouth-Cumberland town line to the waters off Town Landing. We had another quarter mile to travel, but it would not be on the back of that glorified row boat. We reached a mooring, tied on, and thanked them.
We were hot and tired. We were so close, but so far away. So I did what any self-respecting adult mother does, and I called my dad.
Seconds later, it seemed, I looked up to see the marina launch powering towards us. Behind the driver, I could make out my father, arms waving in exultation over his head. Overwhelmed with relief, we returned the gesture.
It was an hour, a boat, and a moment I would never forget. And then we were home.