Thursday, June 30, 2005

Two boats sink in one day

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (June 30, 2005): Two boats sank off Cape Elizabeth in the course of a few hours Saturday, with no injuries to any aboard or any rescuers.

The first sinking happened in the late morning Saturday. The Cape Elizabeth Water Extrication Team was called to Kettle Cove for a sailboat in trouble at about 9:30 a.m., according to WETeam Capt. Joe Mokry.

“There were four large fellas in a very small boat” watching their 26-foot sailboat take on water.

“It appears they touched the bottom hard,” Mokry said. There was a hole in the bottom of the boat, and the men tried to drive it up onto the beach to prevent it from sinking completely, he said.

That effort failed, and the men waited with WETeam members for the Coast Guard to arrive. The Coast Guard took the men back to Portland.

Mokry said Tuesday the boat had already been salvaged and removed. “In an area like that, you need to get the boat out” to prevent it from being a hazard to navigation. “It was sticking up a few feet anyway above the surface,” Mokry said.

The second boat was a 13-foot Boston whaler that sank off Richmond Island at about 3:30 p.m. when the four men in that boat – loaded with diving gear – came quickly around a corner out of the lee and into five-foot seas. The boat was quickly swamped, and the men were in the water.

A WETeam member was in his own boat nearby, and was able to rescue the four men.

“It’s been pretty busy,” said Mokry, noting an emergency call for a woman on a “large yacht” at anchor near Crescent Beach June 23 and a report of a boat with a fire in the engine room off Richmond Island last week.

Those two both ended well, Mokry said. After Mokry talked to the yacht’s skipper to determine exactly where the boat was, the woman was transferred to a WETeam boat and then to a Cape ambulance for a trip to the hospital.

Location information was also a challenge for the boat on fire. After it was located not “in Kettle Cove near Richmond Island,” as had been reported, but off Prouts Neck in Scarborough, the two men aboard were unhurt and “did everything right,” Mokry said.

The fire in the engine compartment was out, but the boat was disabled. It was helped into harbor in Scarborough, Mokry said.

“We’re thinking it’s going to stay fairly busy,” said Mokry, who in his day job trains emergency workers in rescues in and on the water, as well as on boats.

He said he did a training session down in Wells this weekend, and during the class they did three actual rescues.

“The boats out there are unbelievable,” he said, saying that so many people were cooped up by bad weather for so long that they all want to get their boats out at the same time.

He suggested that people make sure they plan for bad weather – like a fog bank two weeks ago that triggered a search for boaters in Harpswell who were later found unhurt – and other unexpected problems. He suggested people carry a cell phone with a fully charged battery with them, so they can call friends and family in the event they are delayed returning.

Without a way to communicate, such as a cell phone or a radio, people are often reported missing two or three hours after they were expected to return, and “a large-scale search” is begun right away, Mokry said.

More often than not, the people are fine but didn’t have a way to tell anyone they were just pulling up into a cove to wait out bad weather, or had gone a different route for some reason.

“A lot of times it’s really unnecessary because people aren’t planning for contingencies,” he said.