Bring ‘em back alive

Andy Adams 2018 Edited 400

July 25, 2023

I recently had the pleasure of a private tour through the new York Regional Police Marine Unit’s headquarters in Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe, guided by Staff Sgt. Aaron Busby. For a fairly young guy, he has already had a ton of experience and that includes some arduous search and rescue emergencies. He shared the story of one experience that was fairly typical and could have been deadly.

A group of women were having a summer fun day on Lake Simcoe and they rented stand-up paddleboards. Paddling along, talking and having fun, they didn’t notice that the wind was picking up. 

Suddenly, one woman realized that they were being blown offshore. They tried to turn and paddle back but they couldn’t make any headway against the gathering wind. The four all wound up in the water, in life jackets, but as the waves grew higher, they were not able get back on the boards or to see where they were. Luckily, one woman actually had her cell phone with her and it was working. She called 911.

The dispatcher asked where they were and the women really could not tell the dispatcher anything more than where they had started off. They could barely see the shore and had no idea how fast they were blowing.

Staff Sgt. Aaron Busby and the police boat were dispatched but by the time the boat reached the general area, the waves were making it almost impossible to see the people or the SUPs in the water. Almost incredibly, the women were located and rescued but Sgt. Busby wanted us to share two critically important ideas with our Boating Industry Canada News Week readers, for your own benefit but mainly, to share this with your customers for their safety.

It was a near-miracle that the four women were located before darkness fell and it was a long and arduous search. If the one woman had not had a cell phone, this would almost certainly have been four fatalities.

In this edition of Boating Industry Canada News Week, we have a feature story by Allegra Smith-Herriott about an app called “what3words”. If that app had been on the cell phone that day, the women would have been rescued far faster. It’s a simple system that would have guided the police boat to within 10 feet of the phone (and the women). It’s free. It works all over the world as long as you have a cell signal.

The other point is to use a float plan and to encourage your customers to all leave a float plan with some responsible person before they head out. It’s simple, cheap and can make a huge difference if the winds shift, the motor stops or some other problem arises.

Here in the middle of the summer of 2023, with record-breaking heat and many extreme weather events, we should all be more focused on safety than ever before.

By all means – go boating! But bring ‘em back alive.

Andy Adams – Editor

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