SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Early Saturday morning, the Coast Guard received notification that a 34-foot recreational boat with one person on board was rapidly taking on water near Crow Island in Penobscot Bay off the western shore of Deer Isle and was in danger of sinking.
The Coast Guard Command Center in South Portland called for the launching of the Station Southwest Harbor 47-foot motor lifeboat, a helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod and notified the Maine Marine Patrol.
The vessel operator took several measures to increase his prospects for rescue and survival in dangerously cold waters. He donned a lifejacket, contacted the Coast Guard on VHF radio channel 16 and activated the vessel’s Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), allowing the Coast Guard to ascertain the distressed vessel’s exact position.
Once on scene, the Coast Guard’s motor lifeboat crew immediately began dewatering efforts. The crew tried to pass a dewatering pump over to the boat, but the 120-pound pump was too heavy for the vessel operator to lift on his own. One Coast Guard member was able to maneuver the motor lifeboat close enough, board the distressed boat himself and pull the pump on board and start it. The pump removed enough water to allow the vessel to be towed safely back to Stonington.
“This was a great response by not only a responsive and well-trained Coast Guard boat crew, but a prepared mariner,” Cmdr. James McLay, the Coast Guard’s search and rescue mission coordinator, said in a statement. “The proactive safety measures he took both before and during today’s incident ensured a safe and expeditious rescue, kept him out of the water, and allowed us to apply critical damage control efforts which prevented his vessel from sinking.”
Maintaining and using an EPIRB when in distress helps the Coast Guard determine and track a vessel’s location. Putting on a properly fitting lifejacket before an emergency increases survivability and conserves energy if a distressed vessel has to be abandoned.
To help boaters gather the right safety equipment for their vessel, the Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free boating safety checks. The Coast Guard safe boating app, which can be personalized to a specific vessel, can be downloaded for cell phones via the app store or at uscgboating.org/mobile.