VINALHAVEN, Maine — The U.S. Coast Guard is continuing to investigate last week’s sinking of a fishing vessel near Vinalhaven, an incident which left two fishermen in a life raft in heavy fog for nine hours.
Richard Bickford of Vinalhaven and sternman William Deane Jr. of Friendship said they hit a ledge at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 15, in Bickford’s lobster boat The Kendra and Maysie, according to a press release issued Monday by the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
The men got out their life raft as the lobster boat took on water and sank in Lawrys Narrows, a stretch of water between Leadbetter Island and Lawrys Island. Although they called for help, they didn’t have a radio, and other boats that passed near them in the pea soup fog did not respond to their pleas, according to the Maine Marine Patrol.
But crew members aboard the 23-foot sailboat Kanosera said they heard something unfamiliar at about 1:30 p.m. while en route to Rockland Harbor from Carvers Harbor on Vinalhaven. Capt. Matt Shannon of Rockland was using an air horn to alert other boaters to the Kanosera’s location because the fog had reduced visibility to less than 200 feet, according to the press release.
“We heard someone screaming for help,” Shannon told the Maine Marine Patrol. “At first I thought it was someone messing with us.”
He described seeing the life raft appear through the mist as “very surreal,” according to the press release.
Shannon said that if the sailboat had had a motor, they would not have heard the men screaming for help.
The captain and crew members Rob Stevens and Kristina Whitsell of Arizona brought the fishermen aboard the sailboat and gave them food, water and dry clothes, according to the press release.
“They were both in jeans and T-shirts and the sternman was cold and shivering, so we put him in a sleeping bag to warm him up,” Shannon told the Marine Patrol.
Marine Patrol officers Matthew Wyman and Brandon Bezio got to the sailboat about an hour after the rescue, after Bickford had called his girlfriend with a cellphone borrowed from one of the sailors.
“When we arrived, they were both recovering but still feeling the effects of being exposed to the cold and rain for nine hours,” Wyman said in the press release. “We brought them aboard to transport them to Rockland and made sure they were comfortable and warm.”
The officers got in touch with Rockland Fire and EMS, and a crew met them at the dock in Rockland Harbor. Bickford and Deane were checked out and released without needing to go to the hospital, according to the press release.