HARPSWELL, Maine — A 90-year-old Great Island man swam from his sinking lobster boat to a small island Saturday night before being rescued by his son-in-law.
Philip Tuttle was home Monday afternoon recovering from cuts and scrapes suffered in the ordeal, according to his daughter-in-law Verian Tuttle.
“He’s a pretty stubborn, feisty Mainer,” she said Monday.
Tuttle left his home late Saturday afternoon after leaving his wife a note that he was heading out to check a trap and would be right back, Verian Tuttle said. But when he didn’t return in time for dinner, they knew something was wrong.
Tuttle’s 26-foot-lobster boat, Queen Tut, had run aground off Gun Point sometime between 6:30 and 6:45 p.m., according to Jeff Nichols of the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
“He’s very sharp — he really is — and he definitely was trying to find something to float on,” his daughter-in-law said. “He climbed out onto the ledge he hit, the tide was coming in now, so he knew he had to get to shore, and he had to swim about 30 yards. He’s a pretty good swimmer, or was in his day, and he made it ashore. He said he would crawl on the rocks a few inches at a time.”
In the meantime, Tuttle’s family headed down to the shore to look for him. After one son, Brooks Tuttle, took a skiff to search of the Queen Tut, another son, Stewart, and Tuttle’s son-in-law Michael Innis saw the boat’s muffler sticking out of the sea.
“My husband [Stewart Tuttle] spotted his dad on the shore and figured he had to get out to him,” Verian Tuttle said. The two men borrowed a boat from a neighbor and brought Philip Tuttle back to shore, where he was met by local rescue personnel.
“By the time he came to the dock he was still coherent, but he couldn’t have lasted much longer,” Verian Tuttle said. “He was hypothermic. They peeled off his socks and gloves. The rescue crew was fabulous.”
Tuttle was taken to Parkview Adventist Medical Center, but wouldn’t stay long. He was released about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, his daughter-in-law said.
On Sunday, the Tuttle family gathered at his home to help salvage items from the boat, which was refloated and towed to shore by SeaTow, she said.
On Monday, Philip Tuttle was sitting up, and his only complaints were “a lot of soreness, and scrapes and bumps and things like that on his legs and elbows,” Verian Tuttle said.
“We all feel very fortunate,” she said.