A reminder of the water's perils
May 22, 2012
Every job has its hazards. Nobody in the workboat industry, surely, needs to be told what can happen when safety is neglected on the water. We're reminded all too often what can happen when lack of attention, equipment failure, the capricious nature of the weather, or simple bad luck conspire to create incredibly dangerous situations out of ordinary days on the water.
If you're not on the water regularly, though, its dangers can be taken for granted. Here in Portland, Maine, our working waterfront, from the ferry terminal to the fish exchange to the many petroleum-laden tankers that must be guided into port by tugs, helps to drive our economy. However, most people don't pay a ton of attention to it on a regular basis. Tourists walk down Commercial Street, maybe grab some lobster and steamers, maybe take a ferry ride out to the islands, but mostly just shop at all of our quaint little retailers and stuff themselves silly in our world-class restaurants.
In fact, Portland has begun to gather a reputation as a great place for an inexpensive party. That's likely what brought three friends up from Boston to celebrate their upcoming graduation from Harvard. We've got more than a dozen breweries up here and you can still occasionally find a $2 pint. Plus, the live music scene is spectacular. Unfortunately, one of them will likely never make it back to Boston.
Police continue this morning to search for Nathan Bihlmaier, a 31-year-old Harvard Business School student who had a little too much fun and was asked to leave a bar called RiRa, which is located right on the docks. He never made it back to his hotel room, and the prevailing theory is that he fell into the water and drowned. (EDIT: this update confirms those fears.)
Currently, a police dive team, the Coast Guard, Harbor Patrol, and others are searching the waterfront area where an article of his clothing was found. The Maine State Police are bringing in a side-scanning sonar unit to get a 3D survey of the Casco Bay bottom.
You can get a full report from the Portland Police Chief here, and I grabbed a couple of screen shots of their efforts, as well:
Hopefully, these maritime search-and-rescue professionals don't find Nathan. Hopefully, he's working off a hangover somewhere strange and funny and this will all end with a laugh. But it's looking like a combination of alcohol and the water's dangers have created an all-too tragic situation.
If anything good could come out of this, it might be that people better understand that getting blotto around the water really is a terrible idea.