At 7 p.m. CST, a search-and-rescue coordinator from Coast Guard Sector Sault Sainte Marie responded to a mayday call over VHF-FM radio channel 16 from the operator of a 29-foot sailboat reporting that his boat was taking on water and the boat was being pushed by winds and would run aground soon. The boat operator relayed his position in Lake Superior to the Coast Guard and said there were two people and a dog aboard the boat.
The SAR coordinator directed the immediate launch of Coast Guard rescue crews from Coast Guard Station Bayfield, Wisconsin, aboard a 45- and 25-foot response boat and a rescue aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Michigan, aboard an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter.
The rescue crew aboard the 25-foot response boat arrived on scene first and located the sailboat when the passengers on board launched three flares.
While attempting to pass a rescue line to the sailboat, one of the sailboat’s passengers fell overboard into the water and was able to swim to shore. A surface swimmer deployed from the response boat and brought the passenger from the shore to the boat.
The 25-foot response boat then transited to Little Sand Bay Marina where emergency medical services transferred the person to Memorial Medical Center in Ashland, Wisconsin.
The rescue crew aboard the 45-foot response boat remained behind and attempted multiple methods to remove the other passenger and dog from the sailing vessel. Because of the shallow water, treacherous waves, and a steady 20-knot wind that constantly pushed the Coast Guard boat towards shoal water, all methods to remove the individual and his dog were unsuccessful.
“In the weather conditions we experienced out there, it was a very difficult rescue to perform, but the crews handled it flawlessly,” said Senior Chief Bill Davidson, officer-in-charge of Station Bayfield, who was onboard the 25-foot response boat. “We train for situations like this every day, and it is a great feeling to carry out a rescue where lives are saved.”
Once the Coast Guard rescue air crew arrived on scene, they deployed the rescue swimmer onto the sail boat. The rescue swimmer was able to assist the individual and his dog into a rescue basket which was hoisted back up to the helicopter.
After recovering the rescue swimmer, the helicopter transported the individual to John F. Kennedy Airport in Ashland, where emergency medical services was waiting to take the individual to Memorial Medical Center.
“Both individuals were wearing life jackets and had flares on board,” said Lt. Rudy Gazvoda, the command duty officer at Sector Sault Sainte Marie. “I can’t stress enough the importance of wearing a life jacket when you are on the water, as well as carrying all of the safety equipment required by the Coast Guard.”
The Coast Guard reminds boaters to always have a plan whenever they are going out on the water. Boaters should also always take into account the current weather and possible changing conditions, especially as the seasons are changing and make sure to let someone know where they are going and when they are coming back.