EXCLUSIVE: Man rescued from Lake Erie after clinging to capsized boat for 12 hours

Published: Aug. 19, 2019 at 6:38 PM EDT
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After wicked winds the night before, Monday started out as usual at Fisherman's Wharf in Port Clinton. Seventeen customers boarded the "Waterfox," a commercial fishing boat, and headed out of harbor, about to play a role in saving a man's life.

First mate Brant Cook recalls "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 says that Cook suddenly turned to him, "his eyes big as saucers, and we realized it was a guy straddling the hull of his boat."

A sailor, found 4-and-a-half miles offshore, his sailing vessel capsized during last night's storms. According to his wife, he was trying to sail from Put-In-Bay home to Port Clinton, when the winds whipped up around 8pm Sunday night, sending him into the water.

Langenmeier observed a few things right away, saying "he was capsized, had no radio and had lost his cell phone. It even happened so fast that he'd lost his life jacket."

Incredibly, the sailor survived a full half-day 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," says Langenmeier, "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."

* The captain 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 in the morning. The individual was very lucky he was able to make it through the night."

The "Waterfox" met the Coast Guard a mile offshore, who then brought the man back to safe harbor for treatment. Chief Petty Officer 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 we not release the name of the rescued sailor at this time, though we can say he's safe and sound back on dry land after his nearly 12-hour ordeal.