Cottage community rebuilds beloved dock after it was destroyed in boat crash

Laura Prichard walks on the new dock on the shore of the Keewaydin area of Lake Winnipesaukee. The former lake community dock was destroyed in a boat accident last year.

Laura Prichard walks on the new dock on the shore of the Keewaydin area of Lake Winnipesaukee. The former lake community dock was destroyed in a boat accident last year. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Drone photos taken last year show barges attempting to remove the blue, 50-foot Sea Ray from its perch on the rocks near Keewaydin's beach.

Drone photos taken last year show barges attempting to remove the blue, 50-foot Sea Ray from its perch on the rocks near Keewaydin's beach. Laura Prichard—Courtesy photo

Laura Prichard in the boathouse on the shore of the Keewaydin area of Lake Winnipasaukee. The former lake community dock was destroyed in a boat accident last year.

Laura Prichard in the boathouse on the shore of the Keewaydin area of Lake Winnipasaukee. The former lake community dock was destroyed in a boat accident last year. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Laura Prichard points where the boat approached the new dock on the shore of the Keewaydin area of Lake Winnipasaukee. The former lake community dock was destroyed in a boat accident last year.

Laura Prichard points where the boat approached the new dock on the shore of the Keewaydin area of Lake Winnipasaukee. The former lake community dock was destroyed in a boat accident last year. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

The boathouse on the shore of the Keewaydin area.

The boathouse on the shore of the Keewaydin area.

Laura Prichard near the boathouse on the shore of the Keewaydin area of Lake Winnipesaukee. The former lake community dock was destroyed in a boat accident last year.

Laura Prichard near the boathouse on the shore of the Keewaydin area of Lake Winnipesaukee. The former lake community dock was destroyed in a boat accident last year. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

A 100-year-old cottage in the Keewaydin area.

A 100-year-old cottage in the Keewaydin area.

Laura Prichard near the boathouse and dock area on the shore of the Keewaydin area of Lake Winnipasaukee. The former lake community dock was destroyed in a boat accident last year.

Laura Prichard near the boathouse and dock area on the shore of the Keewaydin area of Lake Winnipasaukee. The former lake community dock was destroyed in a boat accident last year. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Drone photos taken last year show barges attempting to remove the 50-foot Sea Ray from its perch on the rocks near Keewaydin’s beach.

Drone photos taken last year show barges attempting to remove the 50-foot Sea Ray from its perch on the rocks near Keewaydin’s beach. Laura Prichard / Courtesy

Drone photos taken last year show barges attempting to remove the blue, 50-foot Sea Ray from its perch on the rocks near Keewaydin's beach.

Drone photos taken last year show barges attempting to remove the blue, 50-foot Sea Ray from its perch on the rocks near Keewaydin's beach. Laura Prichard—Courtesy photo

By CATHERINE McLAUGHLIN

Monitor staff

Published: 05-17-2024 1:34 PM

Modified: 05-20-2024 10:19 AM


The Keewaydin Cottages feel like the set of a movie.

Tall pines stand sentry on Lake Winnipesaukee’s rocky shoreline, and the air’s humidity-muffled stillness is cut only by the quiet lapping of waves against the small beach and the deep, hollow whistle of distant loon song. Deer scat freckles the grass by an old shuffleboard court now grown over by moss. A sun-bleached blue and beige pedal boat is the first vessel in the water for the year.

Ten cottages, the oldest of which has been there for more than 100 years, form the association at the end of Old Keewaydin Point Road and share facilities, including the winding dirt driveway and the dock jutting off the point into winding Winter Harbor.

One night last August, after 10 p.m., a 50-foot motorboat plowed through that dock, dredging a trough in the shallow water off the beach before grounding on the rocky point. By the time police arrived, the boat had been abandoned on the rocks, its occupants gone, authorities said. The dock, reduced to splinters down to its underwater crib, was a total loss.

“It was gut-wrenching,” said Laura Prichard, a second-generation Keewaydin resident. “None of us could look at it.”

This April, eight months later, police arrested a man who they say picked up the occupants of the 50-foot boat and helped them flee the scene. But no other arrests have been made. Police have not named or charged the driver of the boat, one of relatively few private boats of that size on the lake.

For many lake residents, but especially for traditional, three-season cottage owners like those at Keewaydin, the dock is more than a place to put a boat: it’s their front porch, living room, dining room, mailbox, foyer and driveway, all in one.

“We don’t spend time in our cabins. We spend our time on that dock,” Prichard said. “It’s just everything.”

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Against the faded gray grain of its neighbors, the new replacement dock’s bright-hued wood seems raw, like the pink skin of a new scar.

In many ways, Prichard is grateful: that no one was out for a nighttime swim that evening — as they often do in the heat of August — that the historic boat house, long ago renovated to serve as the community’s library and rec room, was spared, that the company that rebuilt the dock, aided by a warm winter, was able to complete it so quickly, that they could afford to rebuild it at all.

But there is a sense of loss, too, especially without a feeling that the person responsible has been held accountable. The new dock doesn’t have the wood benches and metal railings that, for a century, had steadied hands and dried towels. It’s missing the extra tall end post that generations of kids had worked up the courage to leap off.

“It’s like, if you’ve ever had someone break into your car,” Prichard said. “Like someone broke in and stole something.”

Keewaydin, through the years, has made the most of forced rebuilding: a 1989 history — whose type-written pages Prichard pulled from the drawer of a hutch in the boathouse — states that the knotty pine interiors of many of the cottages came from nearby trees blown down in the 1938 New England Hurricane. It changed hands several times in the mid-twentieth century, and, in 1967, unable to find a buyer as a single entity, the land under the cottages was subdivided and sold off individually. Some camps, including Prichard’s, had to be lifted and moved, reconfiguring the community so that each had roughly the same size plot.

As Lake Winnipesaukee — and Wolfeboro, “America’s oldest summer resort,” in particular — has seen development, and redevelopment balloon, preserving that history has become increasingly dear for Prichard.

Standing on the end of the new dock, she can point to a handful of new mansions that just a few years ago were 900-square-foot camps.

“I am all about the traditions,” she said. “I’m a freak about it.” Down to the bumpy, wooden ping-pong table they refuse to replace, Keewaydin, more than a cluster of cottages, is its traditions.

It’s why what happened to the dock felt so personal, Prichard said.

“When we came down here and saw what was done… It’s a part of the history of Keewaydin,” she said. “And someone just didn’t respect us enough to stay and say, ‘I’m sorry.’”

Prichard still hopes law enforcement will be able to hold the person responsible for the damage accountable.

“I have faith now that they’ve arrested the getaway driver. I have faith that justice will be served,” she said.

When reached for this story, a spokesman for New Hampshire State Police, which includes Marine Patrol, said that “there is no further information available at this time and the investigation is ongoing.”

Prichard said she and her neighbors received an outpouring of sympathy last summer.

“I was half expecting people to be kind of ambivalent about it,” Prichard said. “But how many people stopped at our dock, how many people wrote us and said how sorry they were and were always asking if everyone was okay, I think there’s a positive coming out of this. I think people realized that they really need to be careful.”

In a way, that support was reassuring.

“You’ll always think about it when you go swimming at night, I guess,” she said. “’But I’ve been here my whole life and nothing like this has ever happened… It hasn’t happened in 60 years and hopefully will never happen again.”