A lesson in boating safety

5th Coast Guard District News
After concluding a routine fishing venture June 3, 2014, Adam Gibson headed toward Port Mahon, Delaware.

As he steered his 20-foot Sea Ray boat, which he has owned for the past five years, he overshot his route and did not have enough fuel to return to port. He was unable to call for help since he left his cellphone in his truck and did not own a VHF radio. He also did not have enough line to anchor the boat near the port.

Adam was adrift and alone, hoping someone would find him soon. His situation proves that preparation is paramount when it comes to boating safety, as one wrong decision or one forgotten item can turn a routine fishing trip into a search and rescue case.

Adam Gibson, an X-ray technician at Christiana Care in northern Delaware, stands beside his 20-foot Sea Ray boat Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Townsend, Del. Gibson and his disabled vessel were located and brought safely in Wednesday, June 4, 2014, after being out on the water for 24 hours. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Hoey)

Adam Gibson stands beside his 20-foot Sea Ray boat Thursday, June 5, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Hoey)

“I was out there for 24 hours,” said Adam, an x-ray technician at Christiana Care in Northern Delaware. “As I drifted, I knew what was going to happen. I knew my wife would eventually call someone, and people would come out looking for me. It was just embarrassing to sit there for hours and know what was going to transpire.”

Once he drifted north out of the channel into New Jersey waters, he was able to anchor for the night. It was at this point he tried to use the two packs of flares on his boat. Although he shot off a total of eight flares, one pack was expired so four of them did not light, and the four that did failed to attract any attention.

Shelley Gibson, Adam’s wife, last saw him when she left for work that day. When she had not seen or heard from her husband by 4 p.m., she figured he was having a good day out on the water. Once it started to get dark, however, she began to worry.

As Adam predicted, his wife called for help when he did not return home.

“I saw storms coming closer with thunder and lightning,” Shelley said. “I called the Little Creek Fire Department around 10 p.m. I was worried, but I tried to stay calm. I knew I just needed to give everyone all the information I could and not panic until someone gave me a reason to.”

The Coast Guard, the Delaware State Police and the Kent County Sherriff’s Office began their search that same evening. Adam was located around noon the following day by the Delaware State Police near the Cohansey River in New Jersey.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Adam said. “There were no storms in the area, and I’m lucky it was a calm night.”

Adam said he has learned a great deal from his experience. He plans to purchase a VHF radio, a spare tank of gas and new flares for his boat. He will also ensure he always carries his cellphone or make the trip back if he ever forgets it.

“This was quite humbling,” Adam said. “I learned how much impact one careless mistake—like not having your phone on you—can have. You can’t assume everything is going to be OK just because you’ve made the trip before.”

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