Wednesday, September 25, 2013

UPDATED, ADDED NEW MATERIAL: Troubled Lake Erie vessels keep rescuers busy

Whether it's been a bad series of bad luck, Lake Erie perch anglers preparing for one last hook-up with fish or boaters a little too eager and thus failing to properly check their equipment, rescuers recently have been busy off Lake and Ashtabula counties.

In the past week both a good Samaritan and the ever-vigilant Coast Guard have assisted boaters in distress.

Sept. 25 the Coast Guard's Station Fairport Harbor went into action mode and assisted a pair of what the agency politely refers to as “distressed boaters.”

If that weren't enough just one day later the Station Fairport Harbor unit was again called out to perform a rescue.

Then four days later Fairport Harbor's Coast Guard counterparts in Ashtabula also came to the rescue of boaters in need of saving.

Busy, busy, busy.

The first incident happened about three miles north of the mouth of Grand River, which just happens to be about the same location as one of the Central Basin's finest perch-fishing grounds.

Anyway, a little before noon a boater came upon the hapless pair whose vessel was taking on water, the Coast Guard said.

Said boater then used his (or maybe it was a her) marine-band radio to reach the Coast Guard's Buffalo-based search-and-rescue controller who then used an advanced communications system to get a fix on the 32-foot boat.

The Coast Guard redirected one of its Detroit-based hilos that was performing a training mission off Lorain.

Also put into action was Station Fairport's 25-foot response boat and which arrived less than 10 minutes after the good Samaritan had made the initial call.

Staunching the leak so the endangered boat's bilge system could keep up the Coast Guard vessel then towed the craft to the nearby Mentor Lagoons Marina.

"The rescue went very well with good communication among all the people involved," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Riley, the small boat operator of the rescue boat. "It was good to get out on a case where we had to use most of our skill set.”

The one-day-later episode the station received a radio report from a recreational boater that two people were clinging to a partially submerged vessel.

In response, the Coast Guard again sent its response boat out into what had become some pretty choppy seas. Earlier in the morning Lake Erie's texture was silky smooth but by noon its waves had passed the four-foot mark and headed north to up to six feet.

Such wave height was too much for the distressed boat and its two elderly passengers. By the time the Coast Guard crew arrived the pleasure boat was completely submerged.

Worse, the Coast Guard reported that neither of the men were wearing life vests. Pulling the two men aboard the rescue vessel the Coast Guard then proceeded to work on keeping the submerged vessel from becoming an artificial reef.

This the crew managed to do. Back at the Coast Guard station the men – whose names the agency would not release – declined any medical assistance.

On Sept. 29 the Coast Guard unit at Station Ashtabula were on the scene in less than 20 minutes to a radio call that a boat was taking on water about two miles north of Ashtabula Harbor.

By 9:10 a.m. on a bright, pleasant Sunday morning a Coast Guard response boat managed to locate the vessel and its two occupants, hauling aboard the boaters.

The men rescued acted smartly and contacted us immediately upon realizing that they were in trouble," said Petty Officer 2nd Class William Campbell, a Station Ashtabula official..

"They made several smart decisions by contacting us immediately, wearing their life jackets, carrying a waterproof phone and vectoring us in with a visible object upon seeing our boat. They also personally realized an error and mentioned to me that they wish they had a marine band VHF-FM radio aboard their boat to assist in communicating with us easier without dropping a call."

The two men declined medical attention when they were brought back to shore. Their boat was salvaged at about noon, Campbell said as well.

Just one week earlier Eastlake residents and Lake Erie anglers, Fred and Zoe Haas, decided to do some fishing.

At some point in the angling the Haas' heard the trio cry out in distress, their boat taking on water.

Making a long story short, Fred Haas used one of his lines to tie his smaller vessel to the troubled larger one and proceeded to tow it back to the Chagrin River.

Complicating matters were that the line broke once and needed to be retied, the trip back was about a five-mile run and the occupants of the distressed vessel had to keep bailing all the while.

Finally, Zoe Haas said, the linked boats made it back to the dock.

Haas also declined an offer of money to compensate him for his actions or expenses.

Fred broke the link between the boats, and ignored the fishermen's money which they waved to him. He simply turned his boat around, sailed to a tributary of the river, and disappeared,” Zoe Haas said.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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