ST. IGNACE, Mich., — The Coast Guard rescued a 65-year-old woman from her sailboat which ran aground near Round Island in the Straits of Mackinac, early Tuesday.
Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie Command Center received a call at about 4:30 a.m., over VHF-FM channel 16, from the skipper of the 35-foot vessel, Nighhawk 3, stating that her sailboat had become grounded near Round Island while taking part in the Chicago to Mackinac Solo Sailing Challenge.
The watchstander issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast and directed a rescue crew from Coast Guard Station St. Ignace to respond.
The boat crew arrived on scene at about 5 a.m. aboard a 25-foot response boat, but was unable to reach the grounded vessel because of the shallow surf and seas reported to be around three feet. A local commercial salvage crew also volunteered to assist aboard their boat.
After several attempts by both crews to remove the woman by life raft or onto the salvage boat, Sector Sault Ste. Marie requested an aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City to respond. The aircrew arrived on scene at about 7:50 a.m. While overhead, the helicopter developed mechanical problems and had to divert to Mackinac County Airport.
A second aircrew from Air Station Traverse City was launched and arrived on scene about 9:40 a.m. Due to the sea state and the rigging and sails on the vessel, the pilot decided against a direct basket hoist from the sailboat. Instead, a rescue swimmer was lowered onto the beach. The rescue swimmer then walked through the surf about 15 yards to the vessel, safely rescued the woman off of the boat and carried her to shore. The resident of Richland, Michigan was then hoisted up into the helicopter and brought to Mackinac County Airport to awaiting EMS. She was transferred to Mackinac County Straits Hospital for evaluation.
The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to make sure they have the proper safety and survival gear, as well as emergency equipment, on board their vessels before getting underway.
“This case may have had a different outcome had the skipper not been as prepared as she was,” said Lt. Ludwig Gazvoda, command duty officer at the Sector Sault Ste. Marie Command Center. “She had a working marine band radio as well as a life jacket and cold water gear. With water temperatures still in the 50 degree range, being properly prepared dramatically increases survivability.”