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Wis. sailor knocked off his boat

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chicagotribune.com

Wis. sailor, knocked off his boat, rescued by Coast Guard after treading water for 12 hours

By Associated Press

 

8:25 AM CDT, August 19, 2008

 

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) _ A sailor rescued after he fell into Lake Michigan says one of the worst moments of the 12-hour ordeal came near the end, when a Coast Guard helicopter seemed to have its spotlight on him, only to turn away.

 

"I heard the rotors and looked east and here was this magnificent whirlybird," James Nelson said after his rescue early Monday. "I waved my arms, but I sank underwater. I could see the spotlight hit my arms. By the time I surfaced it was heading west.

 

"I said a prayer and the 'helo' turned east. I waved my arms and kept my head above water this time. He flicked his light that he saw me."

 

Nelson, 56, had fallen into Lake Michigan's Green Bay on Sunday afternoon while sailing in his 23-foot sailboat. A gust of wind caused the boom to swing and knock him into the water — without his life jacket, which he had left on the seat next to him.

 

His wife, Mary, reported him missing when he failed to return Sunday evening. Around the same time, the Coast Guard learned that a sailboat was found adrift with its engine running.

 

Seven boats and two helicopters joined the search, along with a group of recreational boaters.

 

A Coast Guard helicopter crew using night-vision goggles and thermal imaging cameras finally spotted Nelson. He was pulled from the water after 12 hours and taken to St. Vincent's Hospital, where he was treated for dehydration.

 

"With strength from the Almighty, I just paced myself," he said. But he said he was nearing exhaustion, "about out of gas," when the helicopter arrived.

 

"When we heard a survivor was spotted in the water, you'd have thought we won the Super Bowl from the cheers," said Chief Mike Weisenbaugh, officer in charge of Coast Guard Station Green Bay.

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Diaphragm in the Drawer Syndrome.

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Scary story. I often put the my life jacket in the cockpit with me when singlehanding thinking, surely I can grab it if something goes wrong. :blink:

 

Very happy ending either way, Coasties or Wife!

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My hometown. Very lucky guy indeed. I know I couldn't tread water that long.

 

Coasties were busy here the last few days. Yesterday the Traverse City-based chopper was back to pluck 4 people plus a dog from the water when a cold front came through and the wind and waves came rolling down the bay.

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Treading water in Lake Michigan, and he gets treated for dehydration. Hello?

 

Green Bay isn't the cleanest arm of Lake Michigan. Lower Green Bay is pretty shallow outside of the shipping channel. Lots of algae (hence the name from centuries ago) and lots of industry on the Fox River which empties into the Bay. The Fox River is scheduled to be dredged next year to remove PCB's discharged 40 - 50 years ago. If at all possible, I wouldn't drink it either.

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How far from shore was the guy?? You would think in 12 hours he could have swam to shore??

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How far from shore was the guy?? You would think in 12 hours he could have swam to shore??

 

good to hear he survived, after 12 hours that takes some doing, says a lot for his will to survive

 

If you are doing that sort of sailing consider getting a "Day & Night" flare from Paines Wessex or some one similar, its waterproof, can be easily attached to the lifejacket webbing/harness, with an optional velcro holster. natch its kin useless if you aren't actually wearing the lifejacket.

 

it was invented originally in the 1980's, so rumour has it, that divers and the SBS in the Falklands had a single dual purpose flare/ emergency smoke. so although its not waterproof to a great depth it will survive getting chucked into the water

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How far from shore was the guy?? You would think in 12 hours he could have swam to shore??

 

The shipping channel comes pretty close to Long Tail Point, which he mentions in the article. Maybe under 1/2 mile.

 

But outside of that point, the west shore is 3-4 miles away and the east shore probably 5-6. The winds were out of the west around 15 maybe, so it probably would have been difficult to make progress to the closest land.

 

People around my office have also wondered about making it to some of the shallow flats in the lower SE corner of the bay where it is only a few feet deep, or an island just on the east side of the channel, maybe a mile south of Long Tail. Maybe he tried to stay near the channel hoping boat traffic would see him before it got dark.

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The lines in this image are approximate location of ship channel. The guy fell off somewhere around the turning point. The lower line is approximately 3-4 miles in length.

 

Note the green tint in the satellite image.

 

post-2552-1219176599_thumb.jpg

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The hypothermia issue is probably not as great a threat as you'd think. I'll google a story from a couple of years ago that has an incredible survival component to it in L Superior. I swam L MI as a kid and it's a hell of a lot warmer now than it was then. The last time I went in (on purpose) was bout 3mis off shore and on about 6' to the surface was like swimming in any inland WI lake of 4sqmiles or less; depth was about 100' where I was.

 

However, 12hrs treading ANYWHERE is a feat nonetheless. As an uber-safety dude that has been bitch-slapped many times on this site, I'm not commenting on anything other than that. More on a remarkable story in my next post.

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Sailor Released

 

10/14:

The sailor who swam nearly five miles to shore after falling off a freighter into a chilly Lake Superior has been released from the hospital.

Scott Richards returned home on Tuesday after receiving a plane ticket to Cleveland from the steamer's owner, Oglebay Norton Company of Cleveland.

 

Richards had been in stable condition at the Keweenaw Memorial Medical Center on Monday where he was treated for hypothermia and exposure. The Oglebay Norton Company stated that this was the first time in their history that a seaman had fallen into open water while at sea.

 

Reported by: Jim Grill

 

I can't find the whole story, but here are the basics. the guy goes on deck for his shift, goes aft to secure some eqpt (barrells, I think) the next thing he knows, he's air borne off the 240+' freighter on his way to the water. It's Oct in L Superior and dark. 6' swells, no immediately visible land lights and no good orientation overall. Sees some light and swims toward it. 5-6miles later, he's on the beach, sees a house and knocks on the door. It's near a prison so they don't let him in but call the sherrriff. He gets there and radios the Coasties and lets him know he has the guy they were hoping to 'recover'. If I remember correctly, his skipper's comment was something on the order of, 'yeah, well he's a pretty good swimmer.' JMJ, but that's the understatement of the century.

 

Great to hear the gentleman in GB is OK, I'd hate to have been in his position, but I'd REALLY hate to have been the other dude.

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good to hear he survived, after 12 hours that takes some doing, says a lot for his will to survive

 

If you are doing that sort of sailing consider getting a "Day & Night" flare from Paines Wessex or some one similar, its waterproof, can be easily attached to the lifejacket webbing/harness, with an optional velcro holster. natch its kin useless if you aren't actually wearing the lifejacket.

 

it was invented originally in the 1980's, so rumour has it, that divers and the SBS in the Falklands had a single dual purpose flare/ emergency smoke. so although its not waterproof to a great depth it will survive getting chucked into the water

 

but you would have to put the jacket on

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I've earned a nickname for these stunts, Fuckin Nelson or FN to family and friends. Glad it turned out right.

 

Same last name, Nelson and I'll be 56 next month, where's my PFD? Wonder if we're related? :ph34r:

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but you would have to put the jacket on

 

thought I'd already covered that......

 

natch its kin useless if you aren't actually wearing the lifejacket.

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