ISLESBORO — Island rescue swimmers helped save three men after their canoe sprung a leak Wednesday afternoon and capsized off the eastern coast of Islesboro.
The men had been paddling a 14-foot-long canoe near Hewes Point at 3 p.m., close to low tide, when they may have struck a rock with the boat and gone into the 48-degree ocean, said Fred Porter, Islesboro public safety director. They were not wearing life jackets, he said.
A couple who live on Hewes Point saw the men capsize and called for help. Crews from Islesboro ambulance, Islesboro Public Safety and the island’s water rescue team answered the call. Because the men were close to shore — about 75 yards away — rescue crews could launch from land.
Two of the men swam to shore on their own, and two rescue swimmers assisted the third man. Once the men were safely on shore, ambulance crews treated them for mild hypothermia and brought them to a house where they could get hot showers and warm up.
“It went good,” Porter said. “Nobody drowned. They didn’t have any [personal flotation devices] on, so they were lucky.”
More than 15 people assisted with the rescue, Porter said. The men’s names and ages were not available.
The rescue was slightly complicated because the three in the water did not speak English and the rescuers did not have a Spanish language translator. Porter said they were Hispanic workers helping to clear trees on the island for Central Maine Power.
“They’re good fellows,” Porter said. “They just didn’t really understand what they were getting into.”
The U.S. Coast Guard also responded to the call, launching its 25-foot response boat from Station Rockland and notifying Air Sector Cape Cod, which was about to send a rescue helicopter when the news came that the men were OK.
Petty Officer Andrew Watkins had some cautionary words for would-be boaters.
“Double-check the condition of your vessel, and always, always, always have your life jacket on board. You might want to have more than a life jacket, especially in this cold water,” he said, referring to survival suits and flares.
“If this had been an hour later, this could have been a lot worse,” Watkins said.
Though water conditions Wednesday were “nothing extraordinary,” he said, heavy fog meant that visibility was diminished.
“They had a green boat and green matches the water very well,” Watkins said. “It was very lucky they were seen with the fog.”