Like so many others taking flight from adverse climate and urban chaos, we spend our summers in Maine. Often, we canoe, marveling at the quiet splendor of our surroundings. A recent outing was anything but undisturbed.

An idyllic paddling excursion turned puzzling for Rick and Judy Gilmore after twilight. Press Herald photo by Gordon Chibroski

Like modern-day Vikings, my wife and I planned a longer trip to the ocean from our home on an adjacent cove. Given our faultless track record, we casually readied ourselves in the canoe with our life jackets and without shoes or phones. The water was still with a dazzling population of birds, fish and a playful seal encouraging us to pursue our goal of connecting with the bay. My wife in the bow, I in the stern, laughing as we dipped and swung back our paddles in respectable synchronization.

Reaching our goal, we gazed to our heart’s content and then, reluctantly, off we went to begin our return in deference to the dictates of the tide schedule. As the sun started to set and the horizon hazed, we began to reach familiar buoys and landmarks. Having gone up the wrong inlet on our last outing, we started to paddle another one with all the telltale signs of home.

Much to our dismay, the newly chosen inlet was also wrong, the darkening sky adding to the deceit. We backed out, looking for another route to our halcyon spot. Now, we were racing against time, marshes reappearing as the tides slowly ebbed out. Twilight came faster than expected, dimming our chances of reaching home. We headed for the nearest pier we could find.

My wife bravely held on to the pier from the canoe, and I timidly walked up the pier to a dark house. With life jacket still on and bare feet, I trundled over two neighboring lawns to a lit house. Hearing children’s laughter, I went to the front door, half framed by a porch. I pressed the doorbell and no one came. I pressed more firmly the second time and a friendly man appeared with his adorable daughter.

Stephen King’s novels flashed by in my thinking. I blurted out: “Don’t be afraid. Our house is nearby, we just can’t find our way in our canoe at the moment.” Ada, the little girl, looked intrigued at the sight of a stranger in an orange life jacket in the dark. Her father promptly offered assistance to me, the shadowy character, living up to the classic Mainer reputation.

Decisively, he emerged from the porch, Ada bravely following, whereupon the man turned to his daughter, lovingly saying: “Stay here, honey.” Ada started to screech, insisting that she come. My host showed impressive sangfroid, taking Ada by the hand back inside and returning to guide me back to the canoe, bravely helping my apprehensive wife out of the canoe and raising the canoe onto the pier.

Our champion then drove us back to our cove. Our “deliverance” was a happy and memorable one. We recovered our canoe and bonded with Ada and her family, who gave us yet another Maine story to take home with us to Maryland.

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