OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The voyage of three Canadian tourists to an island off the coast of Saco was cut short Monday when their small inflatable raft was intercepted about 1½ miles offshore by a Scarborough Fire Department boat.

The rescue boat was dispatched after police in neighboring Old Orchard Beach got a call around 11:30 a.m. from someone on shore who reported that people on a raft appeared to be in distress about a mile off the beach.

The crew on Scarborough Marine 4 found three adults with two paddles were on the 6-foot-long inflatable raft. The rafters told emergency responders that they were headed for Eagle Island, about two miles off Saco, said Scarborough Deputy Fire Chief Gary Sandler. They weren’t injured or in distress, but were taken back to shore nonetheless for safety reasons.

“(It) would have been a long haul. They wouldn’t have made it,” said Sandler. “I’m not sure if they knew they weren’t going to make it out and back.”

Sandler said the crew of Scarborough Marine 4 brought the rafters to within a couple hundred feet of shore, then watched to make sure they got safely back onto terra firma, where Old Orchard Beach lifeguards and police were waiting for them.

The police warned them to stay off the beach and out of the water with their raft, officials said. Police did not release the passengers’ names.

Old Orchard Beach Fire Chief John Glass said the Canadian tourists had alcohol on the raft, but no life preservers, cellphone or emergency supplies. Boaters are required by law to carry life jackets on their boats but do not need to wear them. Glass said it’s rare for people in inflatable rafts to end up that far off the beach, but it does happen once or twice a year.

“I think it’s usually poor planning and misjudging the force of the tides,” he said.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

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