A Sea Tow boating expert said a Coast Guard-mandated safety measure is necessary for boating safety – and can keep you from going too far.
Wrightsville Beach offshore tow captain Scott Collins said new federal law had come into force requiring the use of engine stop switches in all boats under 26 feet, effective April 1.
“I was on patrol when I heard the Samaritan on the radio,” said Collins, of the incident off the coast of Wrightsville Beach on July 5. “I immediately walked over to where they were. Fortunately, they had enough wit to follow the breadcrumbs on the abandoned boat and able to find it.”
On July 5, Jack Sherman, 21, and Andrew Sherman, 50, were fishing off Wrightsville Beach. They noticed an empty boat with no one on board coming straight towards them.
They realized someone must have gone too far – they were right and ended up locating the man who had trod the water for almost three hours about 40 miles from land.
“Real heroes”:Son and father rescue boater overboard nearly 40 miles from Wrightsville Beach
Collins said if the engine of the man (who went overboard) would have been shut off if he used an engine stop switch and would have been safer there – and his boat wouldn’t have started without him.
“Although the man didn’t have to have one since he was not within these requirement parameters, we still highly recommend them to anyone who sailed,” said Collins. “The Coast Guard is not distributing tickets yet, but will likely start next year for anyone not using engine stop switches.”
Bracelets with engine kill switches are the way of the future to give you more freedom on the boat, especially when fishing, Collins said.
“All Sea Tow boats have them now,” said Collins of the member group that provides boat towing and on-water service from expert captains.
“I have become too comfortable”
Sascha Scheller, the man who went too far, commented on social media about the rescue just days after it happened:
“If you could take the time to read this I feel like anyone can learn from my mistake. I was the guy who got lost 40 miles offshore in the water while my boat was leaving without me. “
Scheller continued in the post that he had all the safety gear of a life jacket at sea with a whistle, a portable strobe light, a waterproof VHF radio and an emergency locator transmitter.
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“I got too comfortable and decided the ocean conditions were as good as possible to take off my life jacket a bit, which I never do when I’m alone”, said he said in the message. “Taking a moment to relieve myself on the side of the boat, I kind of lost my footing and in less than a fraction of a second I was in the water in my boat leaving without me.”
Due to a few unique circumstances, Scheller’s boat headed for another boat, he said.
“Fortunately on the other boat there was a father and a son who are, in my opinion, real heroes for the way they reacted and acted in the situation based on their knowledge and experience. To them, my family and I will be eternally grateful and indebted! “
Scheller also said in the post that from this experience he wanted everyone to learn to never be too comfortable and always keep your safety gear on you while you sail.
“He’s a great guy and an experienced boater,” said Jack Sherman. “It shows that this kind of thing can happen to anyone.”
Where to wear the switch
Collins said people don’t really like wearing life jackets, but wearing one gives you more freedom to be in the water safely.
“Keeping good watch, slowing down and not being in a rush are added reminders while cruising,” Collins said. “Speed kills and you may be the most experienced boater, but at the same time there are less experienced boater who may not know exactly what they are doing.”
According to the Sea Tow website, the most comfortable way to wear your engine kill switch strap is to attach it to a wristband. Sea Tow is a marine towing and rescue company that helps boaters in all emergencies, refueling if you run out of fuel on the water, starting the boat’s battery and towing.
“Sometimes we can get to an emergency faster than the Coast Guard,” Collins said.
Collins is a veteran who served six years in the United States Coast Guard, and another six years on a research vessel specializing in submarine anchorages. He is a graduate of the Cape Fear Community College Marine Science and Technology Program. Collins has also served on the board of directors of the Conference of Professional Operators for Response Towing.
Journalist Krys Merryman can be reached at 910-343-2272 or [email protected]