Last Sunday afternoon, a mid-coast Maine man took his skiff out to retrieve parts of his dock that had been washed away by a storm. Somehow, the skiff turned over, and he was thrown into the frigid water near Tenants Harbor.
As it turns out, a Facebook posting that he had shared with friends, just to tell them what he was up to that afternoon, plus a missed check-in call with his wife, probably saved his life
The rescue started when the man’s wife said he missed a check-in call at 4:15. She called him again and again, but her calls went to voicemail. After half an hour, she called 911.
Some 25 first responders answered the call, starting with the local St. George Fire and Rescue and including the Marine Patrol, the Coast Guard, and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
From his Facebook post, they figured he was somewhere between Tenants Harbor and Rackliff Island.
As it turned out, the man had managed to swim to an island after his skiff capsized, but he was approaching hypothermia and no one was around.
A local lobsterman, Ryan Miller, joined the search on Miller Time, his 38-foot Calvin Beal after he heard the rescue chatter on his VHF. Miller saw the man on Northern Island, near Rackliff island, but he was stranded and there was no place for Miller to land his boat.
As it turned out, it took 17 first responders almost an hour to carry the man across the island, strapped to a litter, to a spot where they could transfer him to a boat. By 8 that night the man was reunited with his wife back on shore and on his way to the hospital.
That night, the St. George Fire and Rescue issued a statement, emphasizing the need to let other people know where you’re going on your boat. “What we can all do tonight is take notes from the family and implement this one simple thing that kept tonight from having a tragic outcome,” it said. “Have a plan. When you are going out on the water, establish check-in times. If those times are missed, CALL IT IN. You are not overreacting.”
(The picture shows the St. George Fire and Rescue team’s cold water rescue suits hanging up to dry.)