Bob Raymond, a well known lobsterman from Cape Elizabeth, has taken a lot of grief over the years for the life jacket he wears when hauling his traps alone.
After surviving a disastrous wreck on the rocky ledges near Two Lights State Park last week, which left his twenty foot skiff in shattered ruins, he credits the life jacket for saving his life.
Raymond was hauling along the shore of Cape Elizabeth in an area that’s known for its rocky hazards. The wind was picking up and just as he was setting a line of traps (known as “strings” or “stringers”) back into the water his engine stalled.
Recognizing the danger of drifting into the rocks he quickly dropped his anchor and tied it to the cleat on his bow. Before he knew it his boat had turned broadside to the waves and a massive set of whitecaps was approaching.
Raymond held on for his life as the first wave picked him up, easily dragging the anchor and the traps still hanging from the boat, and slammed him into the jagged rocks. Miraculously, the boat withstood the crash and Raymond was still aboard.
The water quickly receded, sweeping Raymond about a hundred feet out. He looked up to an even bigger wave closing in on him and knew his boat was about to capsize. “I knew that second wave was gonna turn her over, so I jumped the (heck) overboard.”
Now floating helplessly in the water, the current ripped him back towards the shore. Somehow he managed to turn his back to the rocks and brace himself to use his life vest for protection as the wave slammed his body against the ledge.
Amazingly, he receded back into the water still uninjured, but he was growing desperate, “that was the point where I got scared, because that water just ripped me back out there. I realized that I had absolutely no control.”
What he did still have though, was his life vest, “without that vest I would have been dragged under and been gone.”
As the next wave carried him back towards the rocks he turned to brace himself again, “I knew I might not survive many more crashes into the ledge. So right when I hit I turned and grabbed for a hold on the rocks.”
As the water once again receded he held on for dear life to the ledge, pulling himself up and out of the powerful current.
As he crawled up to safety and collapsed on the seaweed covered shoreline he spotted a small, smooth white rock, “I grabbed that rock and held onto it. A lot of thoughts were going through my mind. I was thinking about other fishermen who have died out there, and about all the people who were hurt in the Boston Marathon bombings last year. I couldn’t stop thinking about how fragile life is, and I just felt so lucky to be alive that I thought this rock must be my lucky rock.”
After gathering his wits he began yelling for help, “I was right in Dyer Cove, I could see tourists coming down from The Lobster Shack (a popular seafood joint and tourist attraction), but they all just had their phones and cameras out taking pictures of me. I couldn’t believe it. Finally a guy came running over, he said he was a Coast Guard member from Virginia up here on vacation.”
Word quickly spread through town about the wreck and several of Raymond’s friends shot over to the scene to make sure he was alright. Even though he said he felt fine, an ambulance was called and EMT workers convinced him to go to the hospital for treatment.
“I felt like I could have walked out of there, but the rescue workers told me that my blood pressure was going up fast. They told me I was gonna have a heart attack, so I figured I better listen to them.”
When I spoke with Raymond on Sunday, just a few days after the accident, he was already back at work at Aspasia Marina in South Portland.
He said it’ll be a lot of work to get his boat replaced, but he’s keeping a positive attitude, “I’m really just thankful to be alive,” he said with a grin, “and I’m happy I ignored all those guys who made fun of my life jacket all those years.”