Sailor pulled from frigid water after sailboat capsizes - The Salem News - SailNet Community
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Sailor pulled from frigid water after sailboat capsizes - The Salem News
by NewsReader 03-14-2013

Sailor pulled from frigid water after sailboat capsizes
The Salem News
SALEM ?? A waterproof marine radio may have saved the life of a Cambridge man who fell into frigid Salem Harbor when his sailboat capsized yesterday morning. ??He had a hand-held, VHF marine radio,?? Salem Harbormaster Bill McHugh said. ??That's how ...
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Re: Sailor pulled from frigid water after sailboat capsizes - The Salem News

"I'm the sailor that was rescued from the drink Wednesday morning and, without hesitation or doubt, absolutely owe my life to all the responders and care-providers involved—THANK YOU ALL!!! Your professionalism and attentiveness are nothing short of amazing and I'll forever be in the debt of these outstanding individuals.

My time in the water was probably actually closer to 30-35 minutes, but that's just a best guess in hindsight from trying to reconstruct what happened... the long & short of it though is that if it weren't for their efforts and if I hadn't been able to ultimately get to the VHF submerged (but thankfully tethered) under the boat and place the mayday that called them to the scene I wouldn't be here writing this now!

I've been sailing small boats my whole life and have never (well, maybe once or twice as a child) unintentionally capsized... and so error/lesson-learned #1: confidence in one's abilities should never outweigh due prudence (in this case, indeed, the use of a drysuit given the environmental conditions). "Is this something your typical recreational sailboat aficionado would do?" Well, I'm a good bit more "gung-ho" than your typical recreational aficionado and have sailed the Sound in all seasons without incident before but, as above, this is no excuse and I should have known better than to court danger by not wearing a drysuit at this time of year! (Thank goodness this lesson learned wasn't at the expense of life... just the invaluable time & efforts of my rescuers, a very scary near-to-death run-in with hypothermia and, admittedly trivially in light of everything else, a lot of expensive gear lost).

The capsize was a result of a rigging failure (despite a check-out of all systems prior to setting out) at the same time as a significant gust leading to a massive destabilization of the CG-CB balance in an otherwise very stable platform... thus error/lesson-learned #2: no system is infallible, and Murphy will ultimately have his way, so always plan for the worst case scenario!

Once immersed I immediately activated my inflatable PFD and proceeded to attempt to right the boat... error/lesson-learned #3: protocol should have demanded that, given the conditions, attempts at retrieving the VHF and placing the mayday should have been affected first! Hypothermic shock and the bulkiness of the inflated PFD with harness system made it impossible to gain sufficient purchase/leverage to return the boat to its upright position but, somewhat delirious and being given to an unfortunately over-developed sense of self-reliance, I sure expended way too much time, energy, and body heat (upon arrival at hospital body temp was measured at 87F... I shudder to think [excuse the pun] what it must have been at by the time I was fished-out) in the attempt.

At the end of the day I'm at fault of course for not having exercised sufficient prudence in my personal preparations and having overly-relied on my own sense of accomplishment. I hope though that this can be a lesson as well to other mariners, but if one does get into trouble then VHF [!!!] and Salem Harbormaster, Police, Fire, Ambulance, and Hospital are simply indespensible and the very best! Thank you again all for saving my life, Stay Safe on the Water, and remember the adage that "though you may love the ocean, she does not love you"!!"
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