PORT CLINTON, Ohio (WTVG/Gray News) - Monday morning, 17 customers boarded a commercial fishing boat called the Waterfox for a day of adventure.
As the boat was about 4 1/2 miles offshore in Lake Erie, something caught the eye of first mate Brant Cook.
“As we got closer, it just looked too odd-shaped and too big to be a jet ski, and I realized this was probably going to be a more serious situation," Captain Eric. Langermeier said.
Cook suddenly turned to Langermeier with his eyes big as saucers.
“We realized it was a guy straddling the hull of his boat,” Langermeier said to WTVG.
A sailor was trying to make it home to Put-in-Bay, Ohio – an island in the lake – when strong winds kicked up at about 8 p.m. Sunday, flipping the boat and sending the man into the water.
“He was capsized, had no radio and had lost his cell phone. It even happened so fast that he’d lost his life jacket," Langenmeier said.
Incredibly, the sailor survived for 12 hours, clinging to the hull of his boat, suffering from mild hypothermia but otherwise in good spirits.
“We got all his wet clothes off of him,” Langenmeier said. “And whatever wasn’t nailed down to the customers, whatever they weren’t wearing, we got it on him and got him back warm.”
“He couldn’t really walk that well, his hips and legs were kind of shot, but he was in good shape otherwise,” Cook said.
Langenmeier radioed the Coast Guard for assistance, with Marblehead Station answering the call. Chief Petty Officer Dave Turner said the office got the call this morning at approximately 7:35 a.m.
“The individual was very lucky he was able to make it through the night," Turner said.
The Waterfox met the Coast Guard a mile offshore, who then brought the man back to safe harbor for treatment. Turner says the experience should ultimately serve as a cautionary tale.
“Make a float plan, check the weather before you get out, and as always, wear a life jacket.”
The family has asked to not name the sailor, but he is safe and sound back on dry land after his nearly 12-hour ordeal.