View Full Version : Boater survives 18 hours in ocean

Kim Whitmyre
01-13-2006, 08:52 AM
Boater Survives (http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_3397909)

Lost in the ocean more than 18 hours, boater lives
By Kristopher Hanson, Staff

LONG BEACH A man survived more than 18 hours in frigid ocean waters wearing only a T-shirt and shorts after slipping off his 68-foot pleasure boat, which ran aground Thursday morning on Catalina Island with no one aboard.
Craig McCabe, 59, was discovered hanging to the buoy, exhausted and suffering from hypothermia, about three miles off the Port of Los Angeles just after 2:15 p.m., authorities said.

McCabe, an avid boater, was taken to St. Mary Medical Center with a body temperature of 90 degrees, but is expected to make a full recovery, said Dr. Jonathan Lawrence of St. Mary.

"That's quite a feat for anybody to survive that long," Lawrence said. "He's very lucky."

McCabe's ordeal began sometime Wednesday afternoon, not long after he set out for a quick trip from Marina del Rey to Newport Beach aboard his 1970 diesel-powered motorboat, Heather, officials said.

McCabe told rescuers he slipped off the boat somewhere near Point Fermin in San Pedro and swam an unknown distance to the buoy, said Long Beach Firefighter Paul Rodriguez.

He apparently spent the night hanging to the buoy and awaiting rescue, although details of his time stranded on the water were unclear, and McCabe was unable to be interviewed during his recuperation late Thursday.

About 11 a.m. Thursday, the Heather was spotted after running aground on Catalina Island at Willow Cove, about midway between Avalon and Isthmus beaches, said Coast Guard Lt. Tony Migliorini.

The vessel's engine was still running, but no was aboard, prompting Coast Guard authorities
to launch a massive sea search involved three helicopters, five boats and one airplane and stretching from Marina del Rey to Orange County and west to Catalina Island.

About three hours later, a pleasure boat that learned of the search located McCabe on the buoy and contacted Long Beach firefighters, who had a rescue boat in the area. Paramedics treated McCabe aboard the private boat as it headed toward shore, and then transported him to St. Mary, where he was treated for hypothermia and a small bump to his head, which may have occurred when he fell off his boat, Lawrence said.

Friends who visited McCabe at the hospital said he was exhausted but thankful to be on dry land.

"He's a pretty lucky guy," Mark Stratton said. "He's obviously used one of his nine lives."

Stratton said the lawyer and father of two adult daughters is an experienced boater who may have fell off the boat while tinkering with a dingy line near the Heather's stern.

"Sailing's his life," Stratton said. "He's confident on the water and he knows his own cruiser very well."

Kristopher Hanson can be reached at kristopher.hanson@presstelegram.com or (562) 499-1337.

Sailing's his life? Note that Catalina is approximately 19 miles from where he slipped overboard: his vessel motored the distance.

[ 01-13-2006, 09:55 AM: Message edited by: Kim Whitmyre ]

George Roberts
01-13-2006, 11:12 AM
experienced boats don't leave the controls when they are alone.

Gary Bergman
01-13-2006, 11:14 AM
all the news people think it's amazing that the vessel hit Catalina; guess no one ever told them about autopilots!!....Still waiting for more news on the vessel; she was high on the rocks with low tide in the news photos...

01-13-2006, 11:18 AM
...throw it into neutral at least....LUCKY MAn.

Kim Whitmyre
01-13-2006, 11:36 AM
I just read in the L.A. Times that he was in the water for 5-6 hours, not the 19 hours the local rag stated: from about 9am to 3pm. Not that I would want to be hanging from that buoy at all! Maybe these buoys need ladders? I see seals on them, but us humans can't make such a jump from the water.

Ian McColgin
01-13-2006, 11:59 AM
There was undoubtedly some element of the over-confident or the careless about McCabe when he slipped over, but I'd not simply write it off that " experienced boats [sic] don't leave the controls when they are alone."

We who singlehand often far from shore often leave the helm.

Sailors more than motor boaters are likely when alone and/or at night to wear a PFD and harness with jacklines up on deck, as going out there is routine to even operating the boat. Motor yachts, both large and small, are rarely so equipped and especially that foredeck can be dangerous.

Given how 73% of men lost overboard have their fly open*, perhaps he just went out on the aft gunnel to do what a man needs to do . . . . .

Something like this reminds us that even very experienced people can get lax.

*Totally made up number. Sometimes I say 84%.

01-13-2006, 12:12 PM
George Roberts
Member # 782

posted 01-13-2006 12:12 PM
experienced boats don't leave the controls when they are alone.

Or tie themselves on....
I sail alone...a lot...If I ever leave...regardless of weather conditions and I am alone...I tie myself on....Would not and could not see any other option but to do so...

[ 01-13-2006, 01:16 PM: Message edited by: uncas ]

Kim Whitmyre
01-13-2006, 01:52 PM
The fellow's brother said he told him a largish swell rolled him off the stern while attending to something or other.

Alan D. Hyde
01-13-2006, 02:10 PM
It's just occurred to me that, except for my father (who was born in 1922) all the men who taught me about boats as a boy were born in the 19th Century.

I was told "everywhere you go on a good boat, there will be hand-holds. Use 'em. One hand for the boat, and one for yourself..."

I said, "what if you let go?"

The answer--- "Why would you do that? THAT would be foolish..." :D


Kim Whitmyre
01-13-2006, 04:40 PM
Here's an update to the story from the L.A. Times:

Sailor Calls Upon Own Trinity for Survival
By Mai Tran and Hector Becerra, Times Staff Writers

A sailor who fought the cold ocean, hypothermia and aggressive sea lions for six hours after he fell from his boat into the Catalina Channel, said this morning that he survived on luck, grit and the 23rd Psalm.

"At least three times, I was convinced I was going to die,." Craig McCabe, 59, said of his Thursday ordeal.

McCabe, a lawyer, wept repeatedly as he spoke at a Long Beach hospital where he has recuperated since he was plucked from the ocean by his brother.

McCabe said he fell from the his 50-foot yacht, the Heather, while on a solo trip from Catalina Island to Newport Beach. He was traveling through an area with many lobster traps, and was leaning over the edge of the boat to see if his propeller had become fouled.

Suddenly, a big wave hit the boat. He lost his footing and somersaulted into the ocean.

His boat circled for some time but then went away "straight as an arrow," McCabe recalled.

He said he grabbed on 3-foot long piece of lumber, and stuffed it inside his jacket, which helped him stay afloat.

At one point, weeping heavily, McCabe recited a portion of the familiar Bible verse: "I fear no evil, because Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me."

McCabe said he managed to swim 1/2 mile to a channel buoy.

"When I got there, I had some company some rather large company," McCabe told reporters this morning. "There was a group of very large sea lions on the buoy." One, with "pretty good sized teeth," was "making it very clear that I was unwelcome. McCabe said that just when he got worried, he "heard a sound, turned around, and here was my brother."

McCabe said he is a lawyer who represents children who are abused and neglected. He said he recently read the C.L. Lewis book "Mere Christianity" and underwent a spiritual epiphany.

This morning, he appeared with a gash on his forehead, and a splint on a finger broken as he tumbled from the Heather, but otherwise physically unharmed.

It took searchers three hours to find McCabe. Five boats, four from the county's Baywatch and one from the Coast Guard, searched a vast area between Catalina and the mainland, and along the coast between Marina del Rey and Palos Verdes Peninsula, Coast Guard Lt. Tony Migliorini said. A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft and three helicopters crisscrossed the channel.

He was found around 2:15 p.m. Thursday. Lance McCabe Craig's brother, who had mounted his own search after the empty boat was found arrived and plucked him out of the water.

He was suffering from hypothermia and was taken to St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach in stable condition.

"He's in pretty good condition all things considered, because that was a considerable amount of time to be in the water," Migliorini said. "It's cold out there."

Avalon Baywatch Capt. Steve Kirkland said it was fortunate that McCabe's vessel, by seeming chance, ran aground on Catalina rather than traveling even farther out into the ocean, or worse, crashing into another vessel in the busy channel.

But Kirkland said he could see how some boaters would prefer for the boat to have simply run out of gas in the middle of the ocean.

That way it would remain undamaged, Kirkland said, and "someone could pick it up and have it brought back to me."

Authorities said McCabe was very fortunate. Had he been in the water another two hours, he would have been rendered comatose and probably drowned. When he arrived at the hospital, his core body temperature was down to 90 degrees.

McCabe was listed in good condition and will be released today.

George Roberts
01-13-2006, 06:05 PM
I intended to say/imply "while underway."

Gary E
01-13-2006, 08:53 PM
He was lucky, a friend of mine was not.