Summery Discovery Cruise interrupted by dramatic rescue

During the summer, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan 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 (SDC) allow participants to learn about various aspects of these bodies of water depending on the cruise theme – and there are more than 20 themes to choose from.

Retired MSU Extension educator Patrick Livingston narrates the Bob-lo Island Cruise. Patrick is the ideal person for the job since he’s 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 of 2009.

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

During the cruise, Captain Raymond heard Sarnia, Canada, Coast Guard Radio 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.

The captain 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 crew members 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!”

If you’re interested in learning more about these local bodies of water, consider participating in a Summer Discovery Cruise next summer. Find all the details at www.discoverycruises.org.

Steve Stewart said, “While we don’t promise excitement of this magnitude on every Summer Discovery Cruise, we can promise that participants will have a unique learning experience.”

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