Scooped! (Part Two)

(…continued from last week)

Remember the “I Love Lucy” episode where the Ricardos and Mertzes were heading to Europe on an ocean liner? Just before the ship was to untie from the dock in New York Harbor, Lucy ran down the gangplank to kiss Little Ricky good-bye one more time. The boat, of course, left without her. Her only recourse was to hire a helicopter pilot to fly her out to sea and deposit her on the ship. The pilot did this by attaching a cable to the harness Lucy was wearing and lowering her onto the ship’s deck from the air.

I still get the weak shakies just thinking about it.

Richard Grogan told me that his rescue from the Viking Sky cruise ship wasn’t all that different, except it was in reverse. For those who didn’t read this column last week, here’s what you missed. Richard, his wife Terri and almost a thousand other passengers were stranded on a badly listing cruise ship off the coast of Norway in late March. Fierce winds and punishing waves had caused the boat to tilt precariously to the right. Power to the engines had been cut off and the ship’s stabilizers no longer worked. Lifeboats were useless in the raging waters.

It appeared that the only way to get the passengers to shore was by air. Two helicopters, 12 pilots, seven rescue swimmers and two ground support engineers were dispatched to the scene. Richard and Terri were among four hundred people awaiting the copter at the ship’s stern.

“The very first passenger to be evacuated was the woman who’d been screaming WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” Richard told me. “Everyone was relieved to see her go. After that, they began taking those who were injured.” Passengers were given a padded harness that slipped under both arms. Each harness had two metal rings that met in front. A carabineer attached to a steel cable was hooked to the rings. Then the cable was reeled up to the helicopter hovering above. “A guy was lying flat on his stomach in the helicopter. He reached out and grabbed our hands and hoisted us inside,” Richard told me. “They packed us in like sardines and then headed for dry land, where medical personnel, hot coffee and dry clothes awaited.”

The storm eventually died down and the skilled captain was able to right the ship by strategically dropping anchors. Once the ship was level in the water, rescue boats towed it and the remaining five hundred passengers to shore.

“This nightmare cruise was nobody’s fault,” Richard told me. “You can’t always predict the weather and you certainly can’t control it. I can’t say enough about the professionalism and the bravery of the Viking Sky crew. I’m not at all hesitant to cruise with Viking again, though our next trip may be on a river rather than an ocean.”

And, yes, he and Terri did get to see the Aurora Borealis.

(May 5, 2019)