Lance Noyes Jr. had already pointed his 25-foot-long fishing boat Takeover back to shore, limping along with one busted engine, when the second engine sputtered to a halt.

Noyes had six passengers aboard, including three children, and the waves, driven by a gusting wind, began to crash over the gunwales.

“I thought we were screwed,” said Noyes, 37, of Waterboro.

In a few minutes, the boat would be sinking to the bottom of the ocean, and Noyes, his two daughters and four close friends would be bobbing in the choppy surf.

In his first interview since his boat sank Sunday afternoon, Noyes described the harrowing ordeal and his gratitude to the Coast Guard sailors and Saco firefighters who rescued his party from the chilly waters off the coast of Biddeford, about 2½ miles from shore.

He also credited his friends on the boat that day with remaining calm under intense pressure and keeping the adults and children together as they figured out what to do, Noyes said.

UP TO THEIR KNEES IN SEAWATER

The day on the water started out about 10 a.m., said Noyes, who owns a construction business. He launched in Biddeford with his two daughters, ages 9 and 12, and his friends, including their 12-year-old son, to cruise around the coast, fish and enjoy the water as they had many times.

Trouble began that afternoon. After they cast a few lines and putt-putted around the coast, one of the console-style boat’s two 150-horsepower engines suddenly quit.

Noyes said he and his friends couldn’t get it started, so they headed for home.

Underpowered and fighting against wind-driven waves, Noyes said he feared the worst when the vessel’s second motor also stopped working.

“First the kids were crying quite a bit,” Noyes said. “My two girls, I talked to them and said, ‘Now is not the time. We have to stick together.’ ”

Noyes and a friend dove into the water and tried to turn the boat into the waves so it would take on less water, he said. But it was fruitless. By the time he climbed back aboard, they were up to their knees in seawater, he said.

Noyes said once he realized the boat would sink no matter what they did, he went into crisis mode.

“We hit the distress button on the radio. We called mayday. I called 911 on my cellphone,” he said. “That way, we had every source that we could to get help.”

They fired flare after flare, and blew the boat’s horn to attract attention.

Before the boat sank, Noyes said, he tried to relay his position to the Coast Guard. He was not sure if they received it, or whether another boater nearby heard the call and relayed the message.

Finally, wearing life jackets, the seven entered the 63-degree water.

Noyes said he had also brought along a couple of floating recliners. On a calm afternoon, they provide a way to relax in the sunshine. On Sunday, they became inflatable rafts. All seven clung to the recliners, and to each other.

“We stuck together, we all held each other, and stayed in a close group and waited,” Noyes said.

The minutes felt like hours, he said.

Noyes said he focused on the gray water tower in Biddeford Pool.

“I kept looking at the water tower and thinking how far away it is, and thinking if help doesn’t come, we’re swimming in, and it’s a long way.”

HELICOPTER ARRIVES, THEN BOATS

On shore, the Saco Fire Department, along with crews from the Coast Guard, scrambled to respond.

The Coast Guard launched a 29-foot rescue boat from its South Portland station and an aircraft from Cape Cod. The Saco Fire Department’s Marine Five rescue boat also set out from shore.

The Coast Guard pilot reached them first, Noyes said. High above, he circled and receded before returning low over the water.

A short time later, the rescue boats arrived, he said.

The seven were taken to Southern Maine Medical Center to be checked for hypothermia, and were released about 9 p.m. Sunday, Noyes said.

At the hospital, Noyes said, his daughters began to cheer up. They joked that the ocean “took over” the Takeover that day, and to Noyes’ surprise, they wanted to go back out on the water.

“I said we don’t give up. That’s not who we are. I said we’re going to go back out, we’re going to go fishing again,” Noyes said. “And I agreed we won’t go out if the seas are like that.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at:

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