Goodbye to Richard
There was a woman riding a recumbent bike down the road this morning at about 6 mile, and Chip slowed to talk with her just before fisherman Richard Boyce's place. Chip doesn't usually slow down, much less stop when we're riding, and he is never a big talker. I do that, but this morning I didn’t feel like it, especially there, where on mornings when he is not fishing, we often see Richard heading to town for coffee. That will never happen again. I wish I knew that the last time we waved or he timed us with his truck's speedometer.
Richard fell overboard yesterday morning around five, down by Mab Island, trying to free a net tangled in the prop of his salmon gillnetter. His youngest daughter – she’s a few years out of college-- tossed him a life ring and called for help on the radio. The Haines fleet was all around and boats arrived within minutes, they say, but Richard was in rain gear and boots. Like 99% of fisherman he had no floatation device. The big tides this week meant there was a strong current. The Coast Guard called off the search this morning.
Richard would have no doubt been fascinated by the lady on her recumbent, and stopped to visit had he seen us today. He made time for people. He also knew a fair amount about bicycles, and a lot of things. He was an M.I.T. grad. He built his gillnetter, the 39’ Eleanor S., at his cabin on the ridge above his little "campground.”
The sandwich sign on the patch of ground next to the river across the road from his driveway reads --Free Camping, Rates Double in June, Senior Discounts Available-- and in newer, fine print he wrote: No, you can't see Russia from here. Most mornings we do see an RV though.Sometimes there are bikes and tents.
The terrible news spread early on the holiday. Richard’s family organizes the annual Independence Day Mt. Ripinsky running race at 8am, and would need help, for starters.
I texted my son and his captain, also fishing near Mab Island, that I loved them and to please be safe. I calmed a panicked friend, the wife of a fisherman, who like many knew someone was overboard but not who, the cell service was sketchy. It wasn’t her family or mine. But it could have been, and in a way it was, since in this small town we are all sort of shirt-tail relatives.
By the time the parade was winding down Main St., people were talking quietly, wiping tears, and there was a lot more hugging than normal. While working at the bun and plate table at the picnic we heard they hadn’t found him, and that a friend had climbed on board the Eleanor S. with Dick's daughter for the six hour ride home. I felt better. He is a sweet and thoughtful man with a sense of humor and a New York accent and gentle wisdom from years of fishing. Half a dozen other boats from the fleet escorted them. Friends gathered silently at the harbor as Dick’s boat motored inside the breakwater. Dick’s very good daughter pulled the boat into the slip, hopped off, and tied the dock lines securely, the way her dad had taught her, before falling into the arms of an older sister.
Richard so loved his three daughters and they so loved him. That is the hardest part of this, but also, someday, it will be their solace.