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!