Julie Rosen of Duluth is what you could call an extremely lucky woman.
While sailing solo Sunday in Lake Superior, the 52-year-old fell from her boat and was rescued after spending more than an hour adrift in Lake Superior without a life vest.
Authorities received a 911 call reporting a sailboat beached on Park Point at
Julie Rosen, 52, of Duluth is loaded into an ambulance Sunday evening at the U.S. Coast Guard Station on Park Point. She was rescued after spending more than an hour in Lake Superior after she fell off a sailboat. She suffered from hypothermia. Authorities estimate the water temperature at the time was about 63 degrees. [AMANDA ODESKI / NEWS TRIBUNE]
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4:50 p.m. Sunday.
Mark Howard, a commercial fisherman, was just returning from his nets on the lake when he noticed the beached boat and attempted to make contact with it. He got within about 20 feet of it and could see no one aboard. He tried to make radio contact, but there was no answer.
Responding authorities found Rosen’s boat empty and aground about 200 feet offshore near the Aerial Lift Bridge with its engine still running.
U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Stephen Braun said the vessel’s engine was engaged in a forward position. He said several empty beer bottles also were found aboard, but it’s unclear whether alcohol was a factor in the accident.
Emergency recovery efforts began immediately, with boats from the Coast Guard, the St. Louis County Rescue Squad and the Duluth Fire Department all engaged in the search for Rosen.
Assistant Fire Chief Richard Mattson said the agencies also received
assistance from other boats in the area.
“It was probably the best example of teamwork between organizations you’ll ever see,” Mattson said.
At 6:10 p.m., Eric Kilpo of St. Louis County Rescue Squad said he heard Rosen shouting for help and spotted her floating on her back more than 100 yards away from his rescue vessel. With the help of fellow rescue squad members Brian Johnson and Lt. Jon Koop, Kilpo fished Rosen from the water, wrapped her in blankets and rushed her to the U.S. Coast Guard Station on Park Point.
“She was conscious and coherent but very blue,” Braun said. “She was definitely hypothermic.”
Rosen was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center for medical treatment.
She was recovered about a half-mile from where her boat was found.
Braun likened finding a single person afloat in Lake Superior to trying to locate a needle in a haystack.
It’s unclear exactly when or how Rosen went overboard, but she spent at least 1 hour and 15 minutes treading water.
Braun said the surface water temperature of the lake was between 63 and 64 degrees.
Mattson said the abandoned sailboat’s jib and mainsail had been lowered but were not properly lashed. He speculated that Rosen may have been thrown from the vessel as she was working to secure the sails.
Winds were blowing out of the northeast at about 12 mph Sunday evening, according to the National Weather Service. The air temperature at 6 p.m. was 59 degrees at Sky Harbor Airport on Park Point.
Mattson said members of his Rescue I team freed the 30-foot sailboat using a 12-foot Zodiac boat. They fastened a line to the mast of the beached vessel, then tipped the boat on its side to reduce its draft. A 38-foot Carver was then able to pull the sailboat into deeper water. Mattson said the vessel appeared to be undamaged and was towed back to its regular mooring at the Lakehead Boat Basin on Park Point.
Braun said he hopes recreational boaters will take some lessons away from Sunday’s incident: “When you’re out on your own, always make sure to share your plans with someone else, and always wear your PFD [personal flotation device]. It doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have it on.”