09-24-2012, 10:55 PM
"Sinking?" Criss cried. "Oh my GOD!!" He grabbed my binoculars and searched for the sinking craft. I got on the radio to summon help. "Mayday! Mayday! Emergency! Shipweck off the coat of Cheboygan! Send help!"
I was suddenly thrown off balance as the Angel lurched forward. As soon as I got my balance, I saw Criss at the controls, gunning the engine full throttle, racing toward the wreck full speed ahead. "What the hell are you doing?!" I demanded.
"What the hell does it look like I'm doing?!" he shot back. "Can't this tub go any faster?"
"It's a cabin cruiser, not a hydrofoil!" I reminded him.
"What the (bleep) ever! We gotta save those people!"
I was about to remind him about who was in charge here when Andi stepped onto the bridge, wanting to know what was going on.
I explained the situation and instructed her to go down into the cabin and wait for further instructions. She did, casting an adoring glance at her hero at the helm before she left.
Criss pulled up short of the wreck and bolted out to the main deck toward the bow. "Everyone all right?" he called out. "We're here to help!"
I found the emergency ladder in the storage compartment and rolled it out over the side, hooking it securely over the railing of the Angel. The woman handed her screaming child to Criss as she and her husband climbed up the ladder. Criss cradled the poor kid in his arms, shushing her, even producing a lollipop from somewhere on his person (the guy's a magician, after all).
I told Andi to bring up some blankets and bottled water. I turned to the bedraggled couple sitting on the deck, out of breath and shaking. Suddenly, the woman bolted upright. "Harry?" She looked around frantically. "Where's Harry?!"
"Harry?", the man echoed. "Oh, my God! He must still be down there!"
Criss, the couple and I began searching for Harry, whoever he was. We did not see him by the boat from our angle. I was beginning to lose hope for the poor guy when Criss dove overboard and swam toward the wreck, calling out "Harry!" between breaths. This guy is a total wack job! I thought.
Andi had emerged from the cabin with the blankets and water; she demanded to know where Criss was. I pointed out toward the sinking ship. She dropped everything and bolted for the bow, leaning over the railing a little too far for comfort. "CRISS!" she screamed. "Criss, where are you?"
Criss emerged from the other side of the quickly-sinking wreck, dragging someone behind him. I tossed a life preserver ring for him to grab onto, and pulled him toward the boat. I pulled whom I hoped was Harry, while Andi helped Criss back on board. The little family gathered at our side.
"Harry!" the man called out to his semi-concious friend. "Cmon, old man, pull through for us!"
"Uncle Harry?" the little girl whimpered, "please don't die!"
Harry coughed up a gallon of Lake Huron and gasped for air.
"Son of a (bleep)," he wheezed. "What the hell happened?"
"We sprang a leak somewhere. We almost lost you." the man explained. "This guy"--he thumbed back at Criss--"pulled your ass out of the lake just now".
Harry looked wearily, but gratefully, at Criss. "Thanks, buddy," he said. "I owe you a big one".
"Hey, man, don't sweat it." Criss replied. "It was nothing".
"Nothing, my ass!" Harry protested. "Nothing but saving my life, is all! We get to shore, I'm buying you a beer!"
The mother and child, meanwhile, had taken advantage of the media on board to send a reassuring message to loved ones back home that they were safe. One of the cameramen shot footage of the boat, gently, slowly sinking to the bottom of Lake Huron. We were suddenly aware of another sound, this one of a large motor boat and a voice amplified by a bull horn.
"THIS IS THE UNITED STATES COAST GUARD!", it boomed. "WE ARE HERE IN RESPONSE TO YOUR EMERGENCY SIGNAL! PREPARE TO BE BOARDED!"