LISBON – On a June day in 1959, they were cold, wet and scared teenagers clinging to the hull of a capsized boat.
On Saturday, they hugged, laughed and toasted their survival over dinner at Graziano’s Restaurant.
No longer the skinny youths in drenched swim shorts and T-shirts captured in a front page photo in their hometown’s newspaper, the graying and balding men now sporting paunches grinned at the grainy picture.
“Holy smokes, I had black hair back then,” one of them exclaimed.
Four of the five teens showed up for the reunion, of sorts, brought together by fate and George Boisvert of Auburn, 17 in 1959, who swam hundreds of yards to shore that day more than 50 years ago to rescue his friends.
The afternoon sail had been Boisvert’s idea. The group started out under cloudy skies in a light wind. But the wind soon picked up and choppy waves began splashing over the sides of the small boat, according to a sworn statement given to police by 17-year-old Marcel Bilodeau of Lewiston.
Swamped by whitecaps, gusts hit the sail and the boat capsized. The five teens, classmates at St. Dominic’s High School, held on to the boat’s bottom, hoping for rescue.
Bilodeau attempted a swim to shore, but turned back after a short distance, he wrote in the police report. The water was too rough.
Boisvert offered to go ashore, then set off on his swim propped up by a board from the bottom of the boat. After reaching land a mile west of Auger’s landing, he lay on the bank to regain his strength and sensation in his numbed body. He then ran to Auger’s Landing and broke into a boathouse. He commandeered a motorboat and returned to his friends, who had been in the water for about 2 1/2 hours.
At the same time, the capsized boat had been spotted by a man on shore, who notified police and signaled the kids.
By the time police arrived at the scene, the five boys were safely ashore.
On Saturday, where the only nearby water was in a glass on the restaurant table, three of the four men confessed they never told their parents about their misadventure.
It was the front page story in the Lewiston Sun that broke the news for them.
Boisvert, who was up before dawn the next morning on his paper route, unwittingly delivered the story to his home. Later, at a silent breakfast table, his uncle asked him if he felt like a hero. “No,” the boy replied. “He said, ‘Good.'” Nothing more was said of the matter.
Bilodeau said he found his mother sobbing in a rocking chair and asked what was wrong. She had seen the story.
The near-tragedy didn’t keep Boisvert from getting his hand back on the tiller, he said Saturday. A longtime boater, he recently sold his 34-foot cruising sloop, but still sails a small cat boat and dinghy. Now living in Connecticut, he has taken Ronald Bilodeau, another of the reunion members, for sails in his boats, he said. Jean-Marc Vachon, the fourth member at the Graziano’s reunion, is a kayaker.
The men have kept in touch over the years, but decided to come together to mark the 50th anniversary of their experience.
Marcel Bilodeau said he couldn’t remember whether he kept all of the promises he made that day.
“The big guy had a master plan,” he said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.