A rescue air crew from the Coast Guard Air Station of Traverse City rescued two kayakers from Lake Michigan on Sunday evening during a boating trip near South Manitou Island. A sailing vessel came across three kayakers who said they were too fatigued to complete their journey between the Sleeping Bear Dunes near Glen Arbor and South Manitou Island, and they also said that two members from their party were still missing.
A helicopter crew spotted the two missing kayakers after a 20-minute search. One was hanging onto his capsized kayak, and the other signaled to the rescue crew with his paddle. They were hoisted into the helicopter with a basket and taken to a nearby boat ramp in Glen Arbor where EMT’s were waiting. The waters were rough and cold: 25 mile per hour winds created 5-foot swells and the water temperature was a mere 55 degrees. The capsized kayaker exhibited signs of hypothermia; the Coast Guard considers any rescue in waters less than 72 degrees a cold water rescue.
The two kayakers were lucky that response time from the Coast Guard was swift, because hypothermia is nothing to trifle with. Others haven’t been so lucky. Last year, the frigid waters of Lake Michigan claimed the life of Stephen William Osler Easter—an 8-year-old Ann Arbor boy—when the canoe he and his father rented capsized from a rogue wave one mile from the shore of Sleeping Bear Bay. The water was also 55 degrees that evening, and the two hours it took for the Coast Guard to locate them was too long. The tragedy shows how you should never underestimate Lake Michigan and that safety gear is essential, especially in cold water.
Watch the following video for cold water safety tips:
This rescue demonstrates the unforgiving nature of Lake Michigan in inclement weather and the importance of taking safety precautions well in advance, even if the conditions appear tame when the trip starts.