A Sea Tow boating expert said one Coast Guard-mandated safety measure is necessary in boating safety — and can prevent you from going overboard.
Wrightsville Beach Sea Tow Captain Scott Collins said a new federal law took effect requiring the use of engine cut-off switches in all boats under 26 feet, as of April 1.
“I was out patrolling when I heard the samaritan on the radio,” Collins said, speaking of the incident off the coast of Wrightsville Beach on July 5. “I immediately headed toward where they were. Luckily, they had enough wits to follow the bread crumbs on the abandoned boat and able to find him.”
On July 5, Jack Sherman, 21, and Andrew Sherman, 50, were out fishing off the coast of Wrightsville Beach. They noticed an empty boat with no one on board coming straight toward them.
They realized someone must have gone overboard — they were right and ended up locating the man who had been treading water for nearly three hours about 40 miles from land.
Collins said if the man’s (who went overboard) engine would have been shut off if he was utilizing an engine cut-off switch and would have been safer out there — and his boat wouldn’t have driven off without him.
“Although the man was not required to have one since he was not in those parameters of requirement, we still highly recommend them for anyone boating,” Collins said. “The Coast Guard isn’t giving out tickets yet, but will probably start next year for anyone not utilizing the engine cut-off switches.”
The engine cut-off switch wristbands are the way of the future to be able to give you more freedom on the boat, especially when fishing, Collins said.
“All Sea Tow boats have them now,” said Collins of the member group who provides boat towing and on-water service from expert captains.
‘I got too comfortable’
Sascha Scheller, the man who went overboard, commented on social media about the rescue just a few days after it happened:
“If you could please take the time to read this I feel like everybody can learn from my mistake. I was the guy that was lost 40 miles off shore in the water as my boat drove off without me.”
Scheller continued in the post that he has all the safety equipment from off-shore lifejacket with a whistle, strobe light handheld, waterproof VHF radio and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.
“I got too comfortable and decided with the conditions of the ocean being as good as it gets decided to take my life jacket off for a bit which I never do when I’m by myself,” he said in the post. “While taking a moment to relieve myself off the side of the boat I somehow lost my footing and in less than a split second I was in the water in my boat is driving off without me.”
Due to a couple of unique circumstances, Scheller’s boat made its way to another boat, he said.
“Luckily on the other boat was a father and son who are In my opinion true heroes for how they reacted and acted in the situation leaning on knowledge and experience. To them, I and my family, will be forever grateful and indebted!”
Scheller also said in the post that from this experience he wants everybody to learn to never get too comfortable and always keep your safety equipment on you while you are out boating.
“He’s a great guy and an experienced boater,” said Jack Sherman. “It shows this kind of thing can happen to anyone.”
Where to wear the switch
Collins said people don’t really like to wear life jackets, but wearing one gives you more freedom to safely be in the water.
“Having a good lookout, slowing down and not being in a hurry are additional reminders while boating,” Collins said. “Speed kills and you might be the most experienced boater out there, but at the same time, there are less experienced boaters out there who might not know exactly what they are doing.”
The most comfortable way to wear your engine cut-off switch lanyard is to clip it to a wristband, according to the Sea Tow website. Sea Tow is a marine towing and salvage company that helps boaters in any emergency situations, refueling if you run out of fuel while on the water, jump starting the boat battery, and towing.
“Sometimes we can get out to an emergency faster than the Coast Guard,” Collins said.
Collins is a veteran who served six years in the United States Coast Guard, and another six years on a research vessel that specialized in sub-surface moorings. He graduated from Cape Fear Community College’s Marine Sciences and Technology Program. Collins has also served on the Conference of Professional Operators for Response Towing board of directors.
Reporter Krys Merryman can be reached at 910-343-2272 or email@example.com.
Read More:Wrightsville Beach Sea Tow captain responds to July boating incident