CLEVELAND — Boaters caught in inclement weather and unmarked watercraft breaking free and floating off shore across the Great Lakes region caused numerous Coast Guard searches and rescues during the weekend.
The Coast Guard encourages everyone, regardless of boating experience, ability or vessel type, to check current and forecast weather before heading out onto the water, and encourages owners of small vessels to properly secure their vessels when high winds and waves are approaching.
Boaters in Toledo, Ohio; Lorain, Ohio; and Sodus Bay, New York; got into trouble and needed assistance during bad weather Saturday.
A man and woman treaded water in Lake Erie near Toledo for about 45 minutes after the pair’s boat was swamped by high waves and sank. A good Samaritan pulled the couple out of the water before transferring them to a boat from Coast Guard Station Toledo, which took them to shore where they were treated at a local hospital for symptoms of hypothermia.
Near Lorain the operator of a 14-foot boat with two additional people aboard called the Coast Guard for help when severe thunderstorms caused visibility to significantly decrease and he was unable to transit safely to the nearest marina on his own. A boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Lorain launched and escorted the trio to Hot Waters Marina.
Near Sodus Bay a 22-foot sailboat lost its sail in a storm, the vessel had no engine or radio, the anchor wasn’t holding and the operator was exhausted from fighting the storm so a boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Sodus Point launched and towed the sailboat to Sodus Bay Marina.
A Coast Guard boatcrew from Station Toledo escorted a cabin cruiser with two people aboard to an Ottawa River marina. The pair contacted the Coast Guard for assistance when their anchor became fouled and stuck on the bottom off Turtle Island in Maumee Bay as severe weather was approaching. The operator eventually freed the anchor and began heading to shore before the Coast Guard boatcrew arrived on scene.
Following severe weather and high winds, Coast Guard crews frequently search after receiving reports of unmanned, drifting watercraft because it is usually unknown if the watercraft were occupied and people are in distress or if the vessels blew away from shore unoccupied.
Saturday Coast Guard boat and air crews searched Lake Michigan near Racine, Wisconsin, after someone reported a capsized kayak near Wind Point Lighthouse. Racine County Fire Department and Sheriffs were also involved, recovering the kayak and conducting door-to-door checks with residents in the area for two hours attempting to find an owner to determine if someone had been in the kayak or if it had blown away unoccupied. The search was eventually called off after responders saturated the area and confirmed there were no reports of missing people.
Also Saturday watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Buffalo, New York, tracked down the owner of a 22-foot pontoon boat that was reported unmanned and drifting in North Sandy Pond, New York. The owner reported he watched the boat break free of its mooring and drift away.
Sunday boat and helicopter crews conducted two separate searches in Lake Erie after unmanned, drifting watercraft were reported. The first was a 12-foot kayak found capsized and drifting near South Bass Island, Ohio. The owner was located and confirmed the kayak was not in use recently and said it must have blown away. The other was a personal watercraft found adrift near Sheffield Lake boat launch in Sheffield Lake, Ohio. The owner was never located, but boat and air crews saturated the search area and confirmed there were no reports of missing people before calling off the search.
Sunday Coast Guard boat and air crews searched Lake Michigan near Arcadia, Michigan, after a cargo ship reported an inflatable raft floating 12 miles west of Arcadia. The search was called off after boat and helicopter crews saturated the area and found no signs of distress, and it was confirmed there were no reports of missing people in the area.
The Coast Guard released a new smartphone application in May which allows boaters and vessel owners to check weather conditions at the nearest weather buoy and includes a direct link to the National Weather Service website for detailed marine forecasts.
Four people on a 28-foot boat in the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin used a creative solution to call for help when their boat became disabled five miles from shore Saturday afternoon. Their boat became disabled due to electrical problems that rendered their marine radio unusable. Out of range to place a cell phone call, one of the people thought to remove the boat’s battery and hook it up directly to the radio. There was enough energy remaining in the battery to place their distress call.
A watchstander at Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie Michigan responded to the call, issued an urgent marine information broadcast and directed the launch of a boatcrew from Station Bayfield.
A good Samaritan responded to the broadcast and arrived at the scene, reporting all four people were safe and had no medical concerns. The good Samaritan was unable to take the vessel in tow but remained on scene until the Coast Guard crew arrived. The Coast Guard crew safely towed the disabled vessel to Red Cliff Marina.