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“Last Chance” and “Stormy’s” Season 2013

It is that time of year again. The days are shorter, nights are cooler, and the geese are flocking. The evening star is low in the western sky, the harvest moon is approaching, and who pulled the plug on our River?

For those who left early, we have had a glorious autumn, but the water is again dangerously low.

A Tribute to Paul Thiebeau, (1937-2013)


The River lost a real champion last week with the untimely passing of Paul Thiebeau.

          I met him after his retirement in 2000. He and his family returned to Clayton from the Buffalo area, and immersed himself in the community. He was a powerhouse in each of his involvements; fire department, fire police, Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue (TIERS). He was a leader in training, organization, and operations. It was rare to have any event in Clayton without seeing him there in some capacity,...always helping out.

      For relaxation he enjoyed hunting, fishing, and supporting the organizations that enhance our environment. Being a licensed boat captain made him especially valuable as captain of the fireboat and airboats that provide emergency services to the River community.

         He will be remembered for his eagerness to get involved and his exceptional generosity. He was a true "River Rat" in the most genuine sense of the term.

      May he enjoy his Reward as much as he enjoyed his life on the River.

          Dick Withington

I try to submit a summary of the activities of the Clayton fireboat, Last Chance, as it is here for the protection of the entire River community and is supported by public funds and donations. Our season is not over. We try to keep the boat in service until the hunting and shipping seasons are over. Clearly, this is a weather-dependent decision.

Propriety dictates that we protect the privacy of the folks we serve, so we must lean toward generalities when specific details might be more interesting. Actually, the season got off to an early start with a medical evacuation from Grindstone island across miserable ice conditions. The department's airboat accomplished the mission in spite of the weather. I think only the victim enjoyed the trip.

People often ask me what I do to enjoy retirement. I'm going to refer to the log of STORMY, my little workboat to formulate a report for this year.

---------------------- March and April

Launched into pack ice.

Several trips to Picton Island to clear debris from a large tree that blew down in December and disrupted the power supply to Grindstone Island.

Clear windfall on Little Round Is.


---------------------- May

Save the River buoy near Gull Rock was reported out of position due to wind/ice. Re-located.

Assist fireboat, Last Chance, and TIERS for a personal injury on Bayside Island. Return 2300h.

Assist National Grid servicing Grindstone island.

Hand injury, Round Island.

Disabled boat south of Round Island. Towed to trailer at launch ramp. RTB 1213h.

------------------- June

Assist Fireboat and TIERS response to "911 hang-up" call north side of Grindstone. THICK FOG. No injuries. RTB 0805

Assist Clayton fireboat and TIERS for report of boat "running wild with no one in it" near Chapman Shoal. Boat located and person in the water confirmed. Contacted USCG and commercial tow company. Initiated search for the person overboard. Boater was located and rescued by Sally Gillette of Round Island. She was recognized for her heroic rescue by New York State Parks and Recreation. Clayton fireboat and commercial tow boat, Calypso, captured the wayward boat and towed it to Clayton.

Assist Last Chance and TIERS for "broken hip" Grindstone Is.

Clear windfall. Little Round Is.

Assist Last Chance and TIERS. Possible allergic drug reaction Grindstone Island. RTB 1515h

Diabetic reaction Grindstone Is. Assist Last Chance and TIERS.

------------------- July

Boat accident. Possible broken back. Assist Last Chance and TIERS

Domestic Grindstone Island. Assist Last Chance and TIERS and back-up Law enforcement at scene..

"Boat fire" Picton channel. Assist Last Chance, TIERS. 3 adults and 5 children aboard. No fire. Occupants transferred to passing Good Samaritan boats. Commercial tow responded but not needed. USCG on scene RTB 1637h

Lyman with 2 people aboard disabled by overheating. High winds, anchor dragging toward lee shore. Retrieved and towed to safe dockage. RTB 1430h

Houseboat on shoal downriver. Assisted commercial tower in removing boat with occupants from shoal in fierce squall. USCG on scene. Towed to marina. RTB 1930h

"Allergic reaction to bee sting". Assisted Last Chance and TIERS at Round Island.

"Injuries from a fall" possible hip/pelvis fracture. Assisted Last Chance and TIERS at Round island.

Wooden fishing boat aground. Assisted commercial tower in removing boat and towed to marina.

Assisted Utility company to Grenadier Island, Lake Ontario.

"Smoke" near Little Round Is. No fire.

"Boat sunk" at dock in Clayton. De-watered and towed to trailer on launch ramp.

Fall  with possible hip injury. Assist Last Chance and TIERS Round Island. RTB 2200h

"Possible sheen on water"  Last Chance. No significant spill. RTB 2020h

------------------ August

"Illness" Grindstone Island. Assist Last Chance and TIERS. Air evacuation to Syracuse. RTB 1130h

"Water rescue" Clayton waterfront. Sailing skiff swamped in sudden squall. Rescued by Clayton Police and Antique Boat Museum staff. USCG responded.

"Water rescue" near Mason's Point Four victims, two clinging to green buoy, one in disabled boat, and one missing. Assisted Last Chance and TIERS. STAR team activated and State Police responded on shore. Wellesley Island fireboat on scene. Two young men retrieved from buoy 217, one female stayed with the boat and drifted ashore near Reeds Point. The missing man in the water swam ashore near Mason's Point. Search hampered by high winds and darkness. No serious injuries. RTB 0130h

Large motor-sailer aground near Carlton Island 1430h. Two people aboard. Capt. "ill". Assisted Calyso in re-floating vessel and towing to Clayton. Capt. transported to hospital. RTB 2100h

Commercial tug pushing barges touched shoal and "out of shape".. Responded to scene and offered assistance. Stood by during self-extrication and re-orientation. No apparent damage or contamination. No injuries. RTB 0530h

Boat sunk at dock. De-watered and towed to trailer at boat launch. RTB 1200h

Assist commercial movers in moving 24X40 foot one-story house from Rt 12E to Grindstone Is.

Back injury secondary to fall. Assisted Last Chance and TIERS, Round Island. To Rochester for treatment. RTB 2245h

"Leg laceration", en route to Round Island. Attended at the dock. RTB 1930.

-------------------- September

Sunken boat, Lake of the Isles. Responded to assist commercial tow. Boat de-watered and towed to trailer at DeWolf State. Park.

Mutual aid to Cape Vincent for oil spill. Oil boom deployed. Assisted commercial clean-up. DEC and USCG on scene.

MVA Grindstone Is. "possibly fatal" Assisted Last Chance and TIERS. Transported Law Enforcement to scene.

Dislocated hip, Grindstone Is. Assist Last Chance and TIERS RTB 1653h,

Assist Calypso towing schooner from Raquette River to above Seaway rapids and locks.

"Water rescue" Assisted Last Chance, TIERS and divers. Small cruiser aground on Twin Island shoal. No injuries, no contamination. Hull intact. USCG on scene. Re-floated and towed to marina by commercial salvage.

"Water rescue" Eel Bay. Disabled boat. Assisted Last Chance and Tiers. Wellesley Island fireboat towed to safe dock. USCG and OPP on scene.

------------------- October

Visiting surgeon, orientation tour of Alex Bay area.

Assist National Grid transport to Grenell Is.

Assist tree service Grindstone island, equipment failure. Transport.


I think this is more than enough to convey that this has been a busy season. Retirement in not boring.

Clearly, the fireboat and the EMS service have had a busy summer. Some of their work is done after dark or when weather would keep others ashore. I have tried to show that it does more than just sit at the town dock.

By Richard Withington, MD,  Round Island


Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Bing and Linda O'Meara
Comment by: Bing and Linda O'Meara ( )
Left at: 9:51 AM Friday, November 15, 2013

Hi Dick.... We enjoyed reading about your 2013 Season ! Thank goodness
for good people like you and the others that man "Last Chance", to keep us
safe and out of harms way. We are working hard to return to the island lifestyle.
Our best to you and Rosanne. Have a great winter. We miss you.
Warmest regards,
Bing & Linda
Bob Isaacs
Comment by: Bob Isaacs ( )
Left at: 9:21 AM Friday, November 22, 2013
Nice article; thanks for being there. I was one of the good Samaritans mentioned in the Picton Channel incident. It goes to show that we all have to help one another on the water.

Martin Zonnenberg
Comment by: Martin Zonnenberg ( )
Left at: 12:08 PM Saturday, November 30, 2013
Hello Dick,
Thank you so much for all you do for all of us on the Islands!!!
Wishing you a good winter season!
With admiration and thanks!!!
Martin and Ineke Zonnenberg