Coast Guard rescues kayaker after his craft capsizes in Lake Michigan

Coast Guard District 9 NewsCLEVELAND — A Coast Guard Station Sheboygan, Wis., boatcrew rescued a kayaker after his kayak capsized and he was unable to re-right it this afternoon in Lake Michigan.

The kayaker is a 28-year-old Sheboygan man.

The radio watchstander at Coast Guard Station Sheboygan received a call at 1:20 p.m. from a civilian who reported seeing the man in the water, just south of Station Sheboygan.

Prior to launching a boatcrew aboard the station’s 41-foot Utility Boat, the command there had to get a waiver from Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan, their parent command, due to the fact that the on-scene weather exceeded the UTB’s traditional operating parameters.

Traditionally, the UTB is authorized to launch with conditions up to 30-knot winds and 8-foot waves. On-scene weather at the time was 25-knot winds, but waves of 8-10 feet.

Once authorized to launch, the UTB crew got on scene, about one mile south of Sheboygan’s breakwall, and found the man straddling his partially submerged kayak.

He was wearing a lifejacket and wetsuit.

The boatcrew took the man and his kayak aboard the UTB and transported him back to Station Sheboygan, where he was met by awaiting EMS from the Sheboygan Fire Department.

Although he was only in the 58-degree water an estimated 30 minutes, the man was already showing signs of hypothermia.

Due to the weather conditions, the station’s officer-in-charge, Chief Petty Officer Robert Downs, operated the UTB. Downs is a qualified surfman, the Coast Guard’s extreme weather coxswains. Although Station Sheboygan is not considered a “Coast Guard surf station,” one that requires assigned surfmen, Downs maintains this qualification from a previous assignment.

Petty Officer 3rd Class James Myjak, stationed in Sheboygan since July 2010, was also on the UTB crew. Although he’s been involved in many rescues as a smallboat crewman, Myjak recently qualified as a coxswain, or smallboat operator. He appreciated the opportunity to watch Downs in action.

“Every time I go out on a case with him, he teaches me some new things that he’s learned throughout his career,” said Myjak.

The Coast Guard is warning Great Lakes mariners to be mindful of an ongoing heavy weather system. Know your limitations, and that of your craft.

The Coast Guard also recommends that all boaters and paddlers carry a personal locator beacon. A PLB is a compact device that is clipped to a boater, normally on the lifejacket he or she is wearing. Once activated in a distress situation, the PLB transmits a 406 MHz signal to the International Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System, which provides distress alert and location data for search and rescue operations around the world.

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