By Mike Moye
We had not taken our boat out much last summer, so we decided to take My Sharona to the Golden Isles Sail & Power Squadron/26 get-together at Brunswick Landing Marina. On the return trip to Jekyll Harbor Marina, the unthinkable happened.
Imagine the splash made by something falling from 185 feet above the water. We had never seen anything like it. From the helm Sharon spotted a stopped vehicle at the center span of the Sidney Lanier Bridge. Realizing that someone had fallen or jumped off the bridge, we went into rescue mode. We’re not trained first responders or Coast Guard rescue swimmers, but we had decades of boating experience as well as many United States Power Squadrons courses on boat handling and safety at sea at our disposal.
The first thing you’re taught to do in a crew overboard situation is keep an eye on the victim. I grabbed the binoculars and quickly spotted something in the water. Just like the books describe, the victim was hard to spot and hard to keep in sight, and we weren’t even that far away.
When we got close enough to see the man without binoculars, I took the helm while Sharon grabbed the life preserver and opened up the stern access door. Having taught the personal flotation device section of the ABC course, I knew we needed a Type IV throwable device. The challenge was getting it close enough for him to grab.
We positioned the boat beside him so we would move together with the current, and I maneuvered close enough for Sharon to throw the life preserver. At this point the tide began to drop, causing a swift current under the bridge. We needed to get close but not so close that the boat and props could cause harm. I dropped the swim ladder and struggled to get the victim to the ladder and onto the platform. Fortunately, he still had some strength and could help himself up.
Already in sight of the Coast Guard station, we called 911. Sharon comforted the young man, while I found out where to dock. It was a short trip to the Coast Guard dock, where 20 or so people awaited us. Coast Guard personnel helped secure the boat, while four paramedics went to work on our passenger.
We attribute our success to skills obtained from USPS courses and are glad we remembered those lessons well enough to be able to render assistance when needed.
Mike Moye, JN, of Golden Isles Sail & Power Squadron/26 is a retired technical college president and a licensed captain. He and his wife, Sharon, live in Moultrie, Georgia, and cruise the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway aboard their Californian 48, My Sharona, out of Jekyll Island, Georgia.