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Open-Water Rescue Offers Lessons For All Cruisers (BLOG/VIDEO)

No matter the size of your craft, capsizing in open water is the fast track to a life or death situation. A rescue in Galveston Bay last week echos lessons for cruisers of all types.
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No matter the size of your craft, capsizing in open water is the fast track to a life or death situation.

Last week a pair of kayakers found themselves bobbing in Texas's Galveston Bay without the ability to re-board their craft. With thunderstorms approaching, the two kayakers made a pair of near-fatal mistakes that had it not been for a fast responding good samaritan, this article would be much different. The below press release from BoatUS (the rescuing organization) highlights two critical lessons for boaters of all types, bluewater cruisers especially.

First and foremost, Be prepared. Make sure you are either wearing your lifejacket or have it at the ready in a easily accessible place.The unquestioned key to surviving in water is staying above it. When things get hairy out there, it happens fast and furious and you simply won't have time to look for your survival gear when the bilge alarm sounds. A ditch bag is also ideal here.

Secondly, though not always possible (sinking or fire), try to stay with your craft. You'll be infinitely easier to spot from passing boats and aircraft and it will give you the added benefit of floatation.

Scroll down to watch the rescue footage and read the BoatUS press release. Also look to our April Issue (currently on newsstands) where contributor Chuck Hawley recounts how to handle a man overboard (MOB) from your trawler.

Captain Michael Windham of TowBoatUS Clear Lake TX, overheard on his VHF radio USCG Sector Houston hailing “pan-pan” asking mariners to provide urgent aid to two persons reported in the open bay about 1,000 yards offshore a few miles south of the Kemah Channel. Leaving Clear Lake and with USCG permission, Capt. Windham raced through the empty channel’s no wake zone and was on scene in less than five minutes, initially finding one kayaker hanging on to two semi-sunk kayaks, but in good shape. Windham asked the kayaker for the location of her friend, and headed in the direction the woman pointed, proceeding cautiously.

While conditions were calm, skies were threatening with lightning coming from a not-so-distant wall of dark, ominous clouds. Knowing how difficult it is to see a single person in the water and concerned that he may run over the swimmer, Capt. Windham proceeded slowly until he saw the woman’s head barely above the water. She made a feeble attempt to raise one arm – it was clear she was exhausted. Capt. Windham safely brought her aboard and within minutes both kayakers were safely ashore – including the kayaks.