UPDATED Aug. 29
MOUNT DESERT — A boater thrown from a Boston Whaler on Somes Sound Tuesday morning was uninjured, but it took almost an hour of combined effort from the harbormaster and the Coast Guard to get the boat under control.
The boat’s operator, who has not been identified, was rescued by a passing boater after about 15 minutes in the water, according to reports.
Early Tuesday morning John Lemoine, Mount Desert’s harbormaster, heard a distress call on the VHF radio from a boater about a man overboard in Somes Sound.
Lemoine arrived to find an unattended Boston Whaler running in circles on Somes Sound, south of Acadia Mountain. He said he watched the boat from a safe distance.
“It was safer to let it run out of gas than to board it [with the engine running] wide open,” he said.
Lemoine estimated that the boater spent 15 – 20 minutes in the water, the whole time trying to stay away from the circling boat until rescued. He had fallen into the water without a life jacket. There was also no “kill switch” for the motor–a device that stops the motor running if the operator falls overboard.
“Our crews checked for injuries,” said Coast Guard Public Affairs Officer, LTJG Chellsey Phillips, “but none were reported.”
“The guy’s very lucky to be alive,” said Lemoine.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard had launched a response boat from Southwest Harbor. The rescued boater and Lemoine watched from the harbormaster’s boat.
They arrived on the scene and tossed a mooring line, which caught the propeller under water, said Phillips.
“Then the wake came from the Coast Guard boat, putting the line over the propeller,” stopping the Whaler, she said.
The boat owner was able to get back on his Whaler and drive away, Lemoine said.
The Maine Marine Patrol was also dispatched to the area, but “everything had been resolved by the time we got there,” said spokesman Jeff Nichols. “This is a situation the Coast Guard dealt with.”
The Coast Guard issued a public statement following the incident, to remind people of “the importance of wearing a life jacket whenever operating on the water.
“Anything can happen at any time,” the statement read. “Having a kill switch or means to immediately stop your vessel will help ensure your time on the water is safe and enjoyable.”
Lemoine echoed that sentiment, saying “Every time we get on our boats, we have life vests on.”
Phillips said that while this isn’t the first runaway vessel on Maine waters this year, such incidents are rare.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” she said. “We’re surprised when we see that.”
Stephen Rappaport contributed to this story.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled John Lemoine’s last name. The Islander apologizes for the error.