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In Wayland, A Duck Boat To The Rescue01:07
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A duck boat ferries passengers to and from their homes in Wayland. (Fred Thys/WBUR)
A duck boat ferries passengers to and from their homes in Wayland. (Fred Thys/WBUR)

An amphibious vehicle that normally takes quacking tourists around Boston is taking people to and from their homes along Pelham Island Road, in Wayland.

It's a duck boat, painted in stars and stripes.

The neighborhood overlooks the Great Meadows National Wildlife refuge, which is home to the Concord River. When the refuge was flooded by the rainstorm that dumped more than seven inches of rain on some parts of the state earlier this week, waters engulfed Pelham Island Road.

So the duck boat came to the rescue.

Mike Murphy, who drives the boat, compared his duty of ferrying people to and from their temporary island to his regular job of cracking jokes for tourists.

"A lot's similar. You're riding around in circles," Murphy said. "The people are very, very thankful, that we're here to help them get back and forth to their houses."

The duck boat was dispatched to Pelham Island Road, in Wayland, on Wednesday. (Fred Thys/WBUR)
The duck boat was dispatched to Pelham Island Road, in Wayland, on Wednesday. (Fred Thys/WBUR)

Before the boat showed up, residents of Pelham Island Road had been warned they might be evacuated. That would have been a first for Roberta Wambolt.

"I've lived here for 52 years," Wambolt says, "but as long as we have the duck boat, this is good. It's too deep for the school bus anymore."

Every Wednesday, Wambolt takes her brother, who has cancer, to the Dana Farber Institute. Last week, he was put on hospice care, so she used the duck boat to meet him for lunch.

Wambolt hopes the town keeps the duck boats for a while, but residents have been told they only get them until Thursday. The town is paying $2,400 per day for the duck boat and crew.

"And now they're saying they have a big truck, but that's a dump truck, and you have to go up and down the ladder, and that's not very safe for little kids or older people," Wambolt said.

Last Sunday, the road had finally dried up, after it flooded in the storm two weeks ago. By Tuesday, it was underwater again, and the waters are still rising. The river is expected to crest on Thursday.

One resident, Elise Katz, saw an upside to the flooding as she took in the watery panorama from her duck boat commute.

"It's pretty amazing," Katz says. "We've seen muskrat and beavers and turtles. My son canoed home from school one day with friends."


Update: This story was updated on April 1 to include the cost of the boat and crew.

This program aired on March 31, 2010.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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