Boaters answer distress call

Boaters answer distress call on Lake Mohave

By Andy Pensavalle

Phoenix Sail & Power Squadron members met at Lake Mohave for a weekly get-together on a beautiful day with clear skies and no wind. The summer crowds had disappeared, and although the lake had dropped and some beaches were mud bogs, everyone had enough flat warm sand to set up chairs. A series of fast sequential horn blasts interrupted our quiet respite. An island obscured our view of the main lake. After moving her vantage point, Barb Accardo saw smoke coming from a runabout dead in the water in the middle of the lake.

Mike Accardo tried to raise the National Park Service on his radio, but his signal wasn’t going out due to our position. In the meantime, Joe Weller cleared his mooring lines from the beach while Sharon Weller and I climbed onboard. When we made it to the boat in distress, smoke billowed from the starboard rear area, and people were already in the water.

We later found out that they were experienced boaters who had been visiting the area for many years. The skipper and his wife had the presence of mind to empty a cooler they had on board and fill it with valuables and other items that needed protection from the water. They took the cooler with them as the crew abandoned ship and worked at getting as far as they could from a possible explosion.

Another boat joined us. The good people onboard had been renting a ski boat for the day when they heard the alarm. They picked up two of the passengers in the water and took them to shore. We picked up the skipper and his wife along with the valuable cooler.

Time and circumstances didn’t allow us to exchange contact information, but we made sure they knew that members of United States Power Squadrons had come to their rescue.

In the meantime, one of the passengers and another couple back at our beach contacted 911, which dispatched a park ranger. Since we had the bigger boat, we took everyone from the crippled boat back to the marina where they could make arrangements. While in route, we flagged down the park ranger’s boat as it left the marina. The disabled boat’s skipper got on the ranger’s boat. They made their way back to the runabout, which was no longer smoking, while we dropped off the rest of the party at the marina.

Everyone was safe thanks to quick reactions by the victims and their rescuers. Time and circumstances didn’t allow us to exchange contact information, but we made sure they knew that members of United States Power Squadrons had come to their rescue.

Even though I consider myself to be a trained and experienced recreational boater, I learned a couple of lessons from this experience:

  • I’m going to get a good portable air horn. I doubt that the “toot, toot” horn on my boat would ever be heard over a long distance.
  • Regardless of the time I intend to spend on the water or the distance I plan to travel, I will always have my radio installed.
  • I’m going to get the largest waterproof box I can find and make it permanent equipment on my boat, although I don’t know where I will store it. Gee, I guess I’ll have to get a bigger boat.

A past commander of Lake Mohave Power Squadron/28, Andy Pensavalle is a member of Phoenix Sail & Power Squadron/28. He and his wife, Linda, enjoy day outings with friends aboard their 19-foot pontoon boat on Lake Mohave in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

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