Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw rescues 3, salvages vessel from Whitefish Bay

Great Lakes Coast Guard NewsCLEVELAND — The Coast Guard rescued three people who were aboard a disabled and adrift boat in Whitefish Bay, Mich., Monday afternoon.

At about 3 p.m., the crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw received a report of a disabled and adrift boat in the vicinity of Rivermouth Campground. The Mackinaw, a 240-foot heavy ice-breaking cutter homeported in Cheboygan, Mich., launched a rescue crew aboard the cutter’s deployable smallboat to get on scene faster. The people aboard the disabled boat waved down the rescue crew as they approached.

The boaters were about two hours from their launching position, in the vicinity of Tahquamenon River, Mich. The cutter’s small boat started towing the disabled boat back to its original launching point, but was unable to get all the way to the docks due to shallow water.

As the rescue was taking place, a storm quickly approached, and the crew of the Mackinaw did not believe the boaters could make it to shore due to the shallow water and dead battery aboard the boat. The rescue crew brought the three people aboard Mackinaw and decided to use the cutter’s crane to lift the disabled boat onto the cutter’s deck.

Once aboard the Mackinaw, the cutter’s corpsman checked out the rescued people and found them to be in good health and good spirits. The crew of the Mackinaw also provided dinner and warmer clothing for the individuals. The individuals were safely dropped off at the southwest pier of the Soo Locks at 10:30 p.m. Monday and the boaters returned Tuesday morning with a boat trailer and the Mackinaw’s crew lowered the boat down to it at 9 a.m.

It is Coast Guard policy to defer non-emergency assists to commercial companies, so as to not take work away from local businesses. However, due to the unfavorable weather conditions approaching, and the difficulty for surface craft to reach the vessel in the shallow water, the crew decided it would be best to remove the boat on the spot.

“With no time to call in a commercial assist company, the captain and crew of the Mackinaw exhibited tremendous on-scene initiative,” said Capt. Darryl Verfaillie, chief of the 9th Coast Guard District Prevention Division, which has oversight over all Great Lakes Coast Guard cutters.

“If they had left the vessel, it could have become a hazard to navigation or a potential source of pollution.”

The Coast Guard recommends that all mariners be prepared for any scenario before they get out on the water. Boaters should always check the current and expected weather before they get underway, and they can also stay up to date on the weather by listening to regular weather reports on your VHF-FM marine radio. The U.S. Coast Guard broadcasts coastal forecasts and storm warnings of interest to the mariner on VHF channel 22A following an initial announcement on VHF channel 16.

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