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Sept. 18, 2013

Tom Coon: Dramatic rescue on a Summer Discovery Cruise

Sept. 18, 2013

Tom Coon is director of Michigan State University Extension and a fisheries and wildlife professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 

During the summer, Michigan State University ExtensionMichigan Sea Grant and the Huron-Clinton Metroparks collaborate to offer educational cruises to the public on Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and Lake Erie. 

The Summer Discovery Cruises allow participants to learn about various aspects of these bodies of water depending on the cruise theme—there are more than 20 themes to choose from. Senior Sea Grant Extension educator Steve Stewart, who serves as program director for the cruises, describes them as “an opportunity for people to learn about the lakes by being on the lakes.”

Retired MSU Extension educator Patrick Livingston narrates the Bob-lo Island Cruise, and is the ideal person for the job—he’s the author of "Summer Dreams: The Story of Bob-lo Island¸" a history of the island recognized by the Library of Michigan as a Michigan Notable Book.

On Aug. 11, the education vessel the E/V Clinton carried passengers enjoying the Bob-lo Island Cruise. In addition to Patrick, Extension program workers Elizabeth Nebel and Jenna Roy provided expertise. All are experienced SDC and Great Lakes Education Program instructors. Captain Norm Raymond piloted the ship.

As the Clinton approached the southern end of Bob-lo Island, Captain Raymond heard the Canadian Coast Guard broadcast a mayday distress call regarding a personal watercraft going in circles with nobody on board.

The captain informed the MSU Extension staff of the alert and asked them to keep an eye out for anybody in the water. Anyone in that position that day would be in trouble. The air temperature at 71 degrees and a wind speed of 11 mph created conditions for cold water and waves a foot high.

E/V Clinton (boat)

Captain Raymond soon spotted two people clinging to a buoy. As the Clinton approached the buoy, one of the people began to swim toward the boat and climbed the boarding ladder our staff had deployed. The staff assisted the shivering teenager to a seat. He explained that he and his father had been on a Jet Ski and the choppy waves threw them off. The current took the Jet Ski into the lake and they could not safely attempt to retrieve it, choosing instead to cling to the buoy. He thought they had been in the water approximately 45 minutes. Fortunately, both he and his father were wearing personal flotation devices.

As the boat came about to retrieve the boy’s father still clinging to the buoy, a Canadian Coast Guard vessel approached at high speed. The Clinton stood off as crew in the Canadian vessel pulled him from the water. As soon as the Canadian Coast Guard vessel crewmembers had secured the father aboard, they came alongside the Clinton and our staff transferred the young man to the Coast Guard boat. The Coast Guard vessel then went to retrieve the Jet Ski and the Summer Discovery Cruise continued.

After the cruise, our MSU Extension staff reflected on the rescue, the need for safety aboard any vessel regardless of size and the fact that safety training each season—including man-overboard drills—had prepared them to act quickly, calmly and effectively.

They acted so calmly that one participant wrote on the cruise evaluation form: “We especially enjoyed the rescue re-enactment—well done!”


Read more blogs from Tom Coon at MSUE Spotlight>>