A Coast Guard crew rescued three people from the water Sunday afternoon about 10 minutes after their 17-foot sailboat capsized in Portland Harbor.

One of the three adults, a woman, was briefly caught beneath the capsized boat, but managed to work herself free and get to the surface, according to a member of the four-person Coast Guard crew that sped to their rescue.

By the time the crew traveled from the Coast Guard’s South Portland station, the woman and one man were on the hull of the upended sailboat and a second man was clinging to the boat’s side, said one of their rescuers, Coast Guard Boatswain Mate 2nd Class Steve Santos.

“Luckily, it was pretty close to the shore. This time of year, the water is pretty cold. They were in the water for about 10 minutes,” Santos said. “We didn’t see any signs of hypothermia. I’m sure they were a little shocked more than anything.”

Portland police took the initial 911 call from someone who saw the capsized boat at 1:52 p.m. The Coast Guard launched a 25-foot rescue boat in South Portland by 1:56 p.m. and pulled up alongside the flipped boat by 1:59 p.m., according to the Coast Guard.

“From the time we got the emergency call to the time we were on scene was under eight minutes,” Chris Berry, a search and rescue coordinator at the Coast Guard’s Sector Northern New England, said in a statement. “Our crews responded quickly and aside from being a little cold, everyone is OK.”


South Portland Fire Lt. Robb Couture said his department and the Portland Fire Department each sent a boat to assist with the rescue. All three people were dropped off at the South Portland Boat Landing and refused medical treatment. He declined to release their identities.

Santos said the rescue crew didn’t have much opportunity to talk to the three people from the sailboat to find out what happened, other than that they had been tacking when the wind picked up and they lost control.

Other members of the Coast Guard rescue crew were Boatswain Mate 2nd Class Samuel Turk, Boatswain Mate 3rd Class Michael Brassard and Seaman Jennifer Seaver.

Santos said this sort of Coast Guard rescue is “a pretty rare occurrence,” because typically vessels capsize farther away from shore and private boaters are often the first to arrive.

“Actually pulling people out of the water, it happens, but not very often,” Santos said. “Everything went really smoothly. We train for it all the time.”

Sea Tow Portland called in an off-duty captain, Jim Buxton, who righted the capsized sailboat and used a fishing vessel to tow it to shore, where the owner met him at the South Portland Boat Landing to trailer it away.



CORRECTION: This story was updated at 12:36 p.m. on Oct. 27 to correct the name of Samuel Turk.

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