Coast Guard wraps up summer boating season, reminds mariners to prepare for cold

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – As the air and water temperatures in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont grow colder each day, Coast Guard Sector Northern New England reminds mariners to take extra precautions on the water.

Although summer officially ended just two weeks ago, the Northeast is already experiencing colder weather, which means boaters, paddlers, sailors, fishermen and hunters should carry extra gear to protect them from the cold. They should plan for what might go wrong and be equipped and prepared for survival.

“We don’t want to keep people from enjoying the water this fall; we just want them to be fully aware of the potential for things to go wrong and to be prepared for the worst-case scenario,” said Cmdr. Phillip Thorne, the chief of the response department at Sector Northern New England. “Colder weather compounds the problems mariners may face if they find themselves in distress.”

Sunday evening the sector command center staff took a distress call from Robert Yarmey, who feared he was experiencing hypothermia after his kayak overturned in the Sheepscot River in Maine.

“Carrying the right survival equipment, such as a handheld radio, a strobe light, and a GPS, is what saved Mr. Yarmey’s life Sunday evening,” Thorne said. “This case was a prime example of how important it is to plan for the worst-case scenario. He had everything he needed right there with him and rescuers were able to find him within 30 minutes from the time he went in the water.”

Boaters are urged to follow these safety rules:

  • Leave a float plan with a responsible individual who knows your intentions, location, and who they should call if you do not return as scheduled.
  • Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket and set the example for your passengers or paddling partners.
  • Carry a VHF radio and other reliable means of communication.
  • Be prepared for the shock of sudden immersion and the disabling effects of cold water. Plan for the worst: dress as though you are going to get wet and be cold.
  • Maintain situational awareness on the water – be aware of activity around your vessel, including changing weather, and always know your location.
  • Be responsible – Know that alcohol and drugs cause accidents and sometimes death.

Though the sector stayed busy this summer with traditional search and rescue operations, they also faced unique challenges.

There wasn’t a significant change in the number of search and rescue cases compared to the past few years. This year between Memorial Day and Labor Day, there were about 135 disabled boater cases, about 50 cases where people were rescued from the water, and about 40 cases where vessels ran aground. But there was an increase in the number of vessels that had broken free from their moorings. Additionally, the sector handled several hoax distress calls this summer. Click here for the full story.

“Our Coast Guard crews face risks each and every time they respond to a call — including deliberate hoax calls and reports of abandonded or adrift vessels,” said Thorne. “Not only do these cases put responsible mariners in danger, the time and resources expended is a needless waste of money.”

Hoax distress calls placed to the Coast Guard are classified as a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

In another incident, a boat crew from Station Boothbay Harbor, Maine, evacuated two shipyard workers, helped relocate several vessels from nearby mooring fields, and enforced a 500-yard safety zone after a fire broke out at the Washburn and Doughty Shipyard in East Boothbay, Maine, July 11. Click here for photos.

Thorne said that although the fire caused significant property damage, the case was an example of how sister rescue agencies work together to save lives.

“We had a great flow of communication and cooperation with the fire department,” said Thorne. “As a result, there were no serious injuries or fatalities in what could have been a far more devastating situation. In the end, that’s what all rescuers strive for.”

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