Coast Guard rescues boaters in Apostle IslandsThe U.S. Coast Guard rescued two boaters Tuesday morning after their 26-foot pleasure craft began taking on water near Hermit Island in the Apostle Islands.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune, Superior Telegram
The U.S. Coast Guard rescued two boaters Tuesday morning after their 26-foot pleasure craft began taking on water near Hermit Island in the Apostle Islands.
“They were relieved that we showed up in time,” Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate 2 Shane Robitille said. “Very happy.”
The Coast Guard is not releasing the names or hometowns of the two.
One of the boaters contacted the Coast Guard search-and-rescue controller in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., via VHF-FM marine radio at 6:44 a.m. to report the Sea Ray was taking on water faster than their pumps could handle.
The boaters believed they had struck a submerged log, which tore off the engine’s lower unit. They estimated the boat was taking on about 80 gallons of water a minute.
“The lower unit was completely torn off,” Robitille said. “They had two bilge pumps working and the water was still rising. In enough time, I believe the situation would have worsened.”
According to the reporting person, the boaters had on life jackets.
At the time, the winds were light and variable, seas less than a foot and the visibility 7 miles or so, Robitille said. But the water was cold — just 41 degrees at the surface.
A person not wearing protective gear in 40-degree water will succumb to exhaustion or unconsciousness within 15 to 30 minutes, according to a Minnesota Sea Grant publication on hypothermia. The expected survival time is 30 to 90 minutes.
After receiving the mayday call, the Coast Guard issued urgent marine information broadcasts alerting nearby mariners of the emergency.
The search-and-rescue controller also directed the launch of a 45-foot response boat from Coast Guard Station Bayfield and a rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City (Michigan.).
Robitille, the officer of the day at Coast Guard Station Bayfield, was the coxswain on the response boat, which has a top speed of more than 50 mph. Robitille used every bit of that speed to reach the scene about 500 yards north of Hermit Island within 12 minutes.
“The stern was submerged. … The whole engine compartment was completely under water” when his boat reached the Sea Ray, Robitille said.
One of the three guardsmen aboard the rescue boat crossed to the Sea Ray, bringing a portable pump to help keep the vessel afloat. The portable pump has a capacity of 250 gallons per minute.
“It cleared out all the water,” Robitille said.
The Coast Guard boat towed the pleasure boat to Blackhawk marina in Bayfield, where the boat was taken from the water. There were no injuries reported.
“These boaters did everything right,” said Cmdr. Marko Broz, chief of response at Sector Sault Ste. Marie. “They contacted the Coast Guard quickly via VHF-FM marine radio and made sure they were wearing their life jackets. Had they gone into the water, which is still just above freezing, who knows how long they could have lasted?”