Transporting cars to and from the Island where my husband and I spend part of the summer presents some challenges. Most Islanders keep a car on the Island as well as the mainland. There is no drive-your-own-car-on-and-off ferry. The two commercial boat services to the Island transport cars for a fee and most of the time will deliver them to the mainland and back without incident. Delivery of a vehicle might take a day or two depending upon the wind and tides. It is also pricey.
The salty coastal air plays havoc on metal frames and bodies of cars, so most folks buy older used vehicles to drive on the Island. State Inspections are not required – although registrations and insurance are. On a 4 mile island one does not put many miles on a car so the old beat up ones — affectionately referred to as “beaters” (pronounced beatahs) — can last years.
Mechanical services are limited on the Island and often people don’t want to pay to have a beatah repaired or barged off the Island — especially when the hunk of metal no longer runs. Too often cars end up as unsightly lawn ornaments or remain on the sides of roads where they broke down. Every few years the town collects the abandoned cars, brings a crusher to the Island, and sends off a truck load of crushed beatahs to be recycled.
One spring someone left a big old station wagon in the middle of the Stone Pier — a place where Islanders park to drop off and pick up visitors and commuters. Lindy, a man who operates the barge and delivers heating oil on the Island needed to drive the oil truck to the end of the pier for a refill.
“It had bin settin’ theah for two weeks,” he said. “So I decided to move it out of the way. When I turned the key it started right up! I put it into gear and drove forward. As soon as I realized there weren’t any brakes, I rammed it into another gear to try to stop it. The car jerked and screeched forward in two hops, and on the second one, it went ovah.” He made a one-handed down dive gesture, rolled his eyes, and shook his head.
The rear window of the car blew out on impact and the car sunk into ten feet of ice-cold water. “Often cars that end up in the water take awhile to sink. Not this one,” he said. Lindy was able to open the door right away and swim out. “I spotted a rope tied to a dinghy, grabbed it, and it turned over on top of me!” He had to go back under water to get free and then swim to the float. No one was around as he walked up the ramp, got into the oil truck, and drove home. “It wasn’t until I got home and told my wife what happened that I started to shake,” he said.
Someone who saw the wet marks on the float and ramp asked around to find out who had been swimming so early in the season!
Lindy is a member of the “Atlantic Club” – a group of people (mostly men, I think) who have somehow dumped a car or truck into the Atlantic Ocean by mistake and lived to tell about it. I had heard this story many years ago, and when I asked him to retell the story of the time he drove the car into the water, he asked, “Which time?” Stay tuned…