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Good read from erie

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by "J", Sep 6, 2005.

  1. "J"


    Hi folks it's been a while since I have posted anything been a little busy but things are settling down a little after almost two years, that is until last week and good ole Katrina hit!! So business will pick up for a little while longer until everyone is able to get back to some kind of normal life, anyway I came across this article and thought it was a good read and I wanted to pass it along so if anyone ever gets into a situation like this it might help a little. It's a good read and it might save a life some day. I took out the last names to protect the innocent and hopefully they won't mind. Thanks "J"

    On July 27, 2001 in the span of thirty seconds a small mouth bass fishing trip at Lake Erie turned from pleasure to terror. Wednesday, July 27th was the last day of a four-day practice with Gerry on Lake St. Clair for the upcoming BASS Michigan tournament. We had finally located a concentration of fish that might possibly place Gerry in the money for the tournament. At about 2:45PM we had made several drifts over a reef located about a mile offshore of Colchester, Ont. There was a storm visible on the horizon and it was decided to make one more drift and then leave, as Gerry had to be on a plane for Florida to prepare for the Bassmaster Classic that he was fishing in next week. That decision to make one more drift proved to be a mistake.

    The waves had been about 3-4 feet as we made the drifts over the reef. I had two drift socks out to slow the movement of the boat. As we were fishing Gerry yelled that a wave had just broken over the back of the boat. I turned around and saw another wave go over the back and drain down into the boat. The stern was sitting lower in the water. I then got down into the middle of the boat to turn on the bilge pump. The combination of the water already in the boat, my weight on the rear of the boat and the drift sock pulling the stern down allowed the next series of waves to fill the boat. We were level with the water in a matter of thirty seconds. At this point the outboard would not start as the batteries shorted out and the bilge did not work. The compartments were filling with water and tackle was floating in the water and boat. Life jackets were secured and it was discovered that the cell phone was wet and would not operate. We were adrift with the boat full of water and no help in sight. The canister with the flares and flare gun was secured, as it was our only hope of signaling help. Within the first half hour two pleasure boats were sighted but they were too far away to see our signal flares. The wind was also pushing us away from shore out into the shipping channel. After being in the water for about an hour the storm struck. The waves built up to about nine feet and even though they did not break over the boat they would push the boat so that it wanted to roll over. When this occurred we had to lean on the side to keep the boat level. After about three hours in the water we had both decided that the boat’s flotation would keep it up and that the boat was not going to the bottom. It was also decided that our best hope for rescue was that we were floating out into the shipping channel. After about four hours three large freighters were spotted in the shipping channel. The first two were farther away but the last one was bearing down on our position. Attempts to signal the first two were unsuccessful however after waving a distress flag for over twenty minutes I was rewarded with a blast of the horn from the third freighter. The Buckeye was the name written on the side as it went past us. The freighter then stopped and turned around in the water allowing us to drift into her side as the captain maneuvered the 696 foot ship to allow us to drift within thirty feet of her side. At this point the crew was yelling for us to hold on.

    My thoughts were that they were going to stay with us until the Coast Guard arrived. To my surprise ropes were thrown from the deck with instructions to secure them to the boat. The crew then pulled the boat to the side of the freighter and lowered a ladder over the side. Gerry was the first one up the ladder and I had to help him up as he fell once from the movement of the boat as it struck the waves beside the freighter. After Gerry was on the freighter it was my turn to go up the ladder. Even with my fear of heights I went up the ladder and was pulled to safety on the deck of the biggest boat I have ever seen. At this point I was shaking so bad that it was hard to walk due to the fact that the four and half hours we were in the water I was unable to stand up as it would have destroyed the balance of the boat. The crew drained the water from the boat by picking up the front and the Canadian Coast Guard towed the boat to their docks where I picked it up the next day. After a four-hour ride into the Detroit River we went back over the side of the freighter to a mail boat for a ride back across to Detroit. An employee of the mail boat service gave us a ride back to Lake Erie Metro Park where my vehicle was parked. Gerry caught an early morning flight back to Florida and I drove home. The boat was an X-19 Xpress that for the experience suffered less damage than my pride.

    After we were safely on shore I had time to reflect what we did that wrong in regard to survival when boating on the Great Lakes. The cell phone should have been in a waterproof bag or at least a Ziploc bag. The drift sock should not have been attached to the rear of the boat although it has never been a problem in the past. There should have been a second bilge pump in the boat wired to another battery.

    However the reason that I am able to write this reflects on what we did right when the mishap occurred. There was the proper signaling device including flares and flare gun in the boat. Both boaters stayed with the boat and did not try to swim to shore. When the boat swamped food and water was floating in the boat. This was placed in our pockets in the event that we had to spend the night adrift. All items such as anchor ropes, lures and nets that would interfere with movement in the boat were thrown over the side. But the most important thing was that we both maintained a positive attitude that we would be rescued and come out of alive.

    I will fish Lake Erie and the Great Lakes again. However I will take a few more precautions when I do. There will be a cell phone in a waterproof bag. I am probably going to purchase a hand marine radio that is waterproof. A second high capacity bilge pump will be installed in the boat. The most important precaution that I am going to do is tell someone where I am launching from, where I am planning to fish, and who to contact if I do not them by a certain time. No amount of planning and precautions can stop a mishap such as happened to me on July 27, 2001 in Lake Erie however if a boat is swamped on the Great Lakes certain planning and precautions can stop that mishap from becoming a tragedy.
  2. ShakeDown

    ShakeDown OGF Staff Staff Member Admin

    Glad to see you back J!

    Great read. I read that a few years back, and there are pictures of that swamped xpress that go with it which are somewhere on the net. I'll see if I can track them down. Really adds to the story once you see them.