A recent Coast Guard rescue involved a sinking boat in Lake Michigan. At first glance, you might think the boat was overcrowded when it sank. There were 9 people on a 19 foot runabout, however, 6 of the 9 onboard the boat were kids, so it is possible that the boat was not loaded beyond its weight capacity. The official Coast Guard release does not mention how this boat started taking on water, but a news article in the local Milwaukee Journal Sentinel states that “the boat’s transom had broken off and taken the motor with it.” An Associated Press article in the Chicago Tribune backs up this story.
When help arrived, the boat was submerged and water was up to everyone’s knees. There was no report whether or not anyone had on PFDs, which would have been a good idea when the water is on the inside of the boat. After the fact, a witness reported seeing the transom torn off with the engine dangling off the back. In any event, this was probably a scary situation for those on board.
Who came to their rescue? A father and son who had just come in from a fishing trip. The son’s age was not given, but the father is 83-years-old. The two men zipped out in their 22-foot fishing boat and got all the passengers from the sinking boat onboard theirs until the Coast Guard arrived.
Between the news articles and the Coast Guard report there are discrepancies (e.g., the CG reports 10 boaters being rescued, while the Journal Standard and Associated Press both report 9), but in any event it sounds like these boaters were two miles offshore without a marine radio when they ran into trouble. In their account of the incident, the Coast Guard encouraged all mariners to wear life jackets at all times when on the water, and to carry a communications device, such as a marine-band radio, while boating. You might also want to make sure and pay attention to the Capacity Plate.
Luckily, all aboard were rescued thanks to the quick action of two fishermen.