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Resuing a Damsel in Newport Harbor

Fog lay
upon the harbor like a variegated patchwork which teased you into thinking you
could actually see something. Occasionally tops of masts eerily stuck
above the thicker patches. There was a peek now and then of portions of boats,
their varnished cabins or rails gleaming from the occasional bounce of
Sunlight.

There was
a softness to the still Sunday morning, for the fog
masked the sounds of voices, the rattle of rigging and the lap-lap of wakes
against dinghies. It was a lay day for the 1967 America’s
Cup Races at Newport,
R.I. Avenir, our 62-foot motorsailor,
was anchored among many other spectator boats in Brenton
cove near the Ida Lewis Yacht Club.

Ida Lewis
took over her father’s duties as lightkeeper of Lime
Rock beacon on a tiny island a third of a mile from the
shore of Newport
after he was stricken by a stroke in 1853. She became the best-known lighthouse
keeper of her day, rowing a heavy wooden boat to rescue at least 18 lives.

Early
that evening the spirit of Ida Lewis may have hovered over us when Mike heard
cries of help coming from the Rhodes 41
anchored to windward.

In true Ida Lewis fashion, he sprang into the Finn dinghy and
sped over to the boat. The wind had picked up and conditions were sloppy. He
stood up carefully, hovering alongside the Rhodes.

"Hello?
Does anyone need help?"

A blousy
blond ran up into the cockpit wearing orange leotards and nothing else. A foul
weather jacket was clutched in her hand. Behind her was an older man with spiky
grey hair, clothed only in undershorts.

"Go
away!" he yelled.

"No!
Don’t go away," the woman screamed. She sprang out of the cockpit into the
dinghy and put on the foul weather jacket.

"Everything’s
fine," yelled the man. "She’s just upset."

"Please
take me with you! Don’t listen to him! He’s been beating me!"

Mike held
onto the lifelines and said in a calm, commanding
voice, "My wife and I live on that motorsailor behind you. You are welcome
to stay with us tonight."

The man protested vehemently but she clutched the jacket to
herself as Mike began to take her to Avenir.

It was
getting rougher. The harbor launch was passing Mike when the woman leaped up,
pointing at the launch.

<"My daughter! She's not his daughter, she’s my
daughter!"

Mike
decided to take her to Avenir first and left her with me. He sped after
the launch and took off the daughter, an attractive girl in her early twenties.
He explained what had happened.

"Oh,"
she exclaimed in a disgusted voice, "my mother’s always like this when
she’s drinking."

Mike told
her that her mother said she had been beaten.

The
daughter looked down, chagrined. "I didn’t know that."

Aboard
with the two of them now dry and calmer, the mother told us the story. She was
his mistress and wanted him to divorce his wife and marry her. He kept putting
her off, then began to hit her when she kept
objecting.

They were
welcome to stay the night, we offered, but they had to leave early in the
morning because we had a charter party boarding the next day. Did they want to
go back to the boat and get their things? Oh no, they couldn’t go back!

The two
conferred. Between them they had eighteen cents. Mother was barefoot with no
identification, no clothes and gasp! No make-up!

They
wanted out. We gave them what cash we had which was less than two dollars and
took them ashore. We never saw them again.

The
Rhodes 41 remained in the harbor for several weeks. We
saw only the owner aboard. The woman never returned.

Betcha Ida Lewis was smiling!

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