Glenn Rumer has been a boater for 35 years. He bought a 39-foot Stamas, but it was a more recent purchase that saved his life and the lives of his six passengers.
For the past three years, Rumer has volunteered to take women out on an all-women’s inshore/offshore fishing tournament that raises money to fight ovarian cancer. This year, he took five women fishing, plus one of the women’s husbands, a charter captain, as a deckhand.
They were 120 miles off Clearwater, Florida, having a great time as all the women were catching lots of red groupers when Rumer spotted a growing storm. Until then, the weather had been beautiful with 2-foot seas and a 5-knot wind. Rumer knew storms were in the forecast for later in the day, but one showed up five hours early.
Very quickly, Rumer and the deckhand cleared the deck and turned the boat for home. As they headed in at full speed the storm cut off their path. With no way around, Rumer aimed for a spot that seemed to be clearing up, but instead found himself in torrential rain with immense winds and lightning cracking down on them. A nearby strike made Rumer tell the deckhand to take his hand off a metal cup holder. A moment later, a second bolt struck the outrigger, passed through the T top, and went out the transom via the trim tabs.
The deckhand recorded the strike on his phone's camera, which struck him and put him on his knees (see video above). Rumer attended to the deckhand who was stunned but alive, then told his sister to get the EPIRB. He knew the boat had lost all engine and electrical power and was dead in the water. He activated the EPIRB, which let off a beep and started flashing.
Meanwhile, the boat had turned broadside to the wind and the 6-foot waves were throwing it around like a rag doll. The deckhand had recovered and with Rumer’s sister got everybody below and into their lifejackets.
After realizing that there was no way to get the boat up and running, Rumer joined the others below where he could see the fear on everyone’s faces.
“It was truly a traumatizing experience,” Rumer wrote later on ACRArtex.com, the EPIRB manufacturer's website. “I was trying to get everyone’s mind off what was going on outside of the cabin. I started asking questions to try and take their minds off what was going on. Anything to get their minds off what was going on outside.”
The strikes continued all around them, the wind was blowing 30 to 35 miles an hour and the waves were relentless, but once the storm subsided, everyone had the same question: How did they know the EPIRB was working?
Rumer assured them the EPIRB was doing its job and that the Coast Guard would be on its way, even though deep inside, the same question was running through his head.
Rumer and the deckhand noticed that the VHF radio had power, so they called out a Mayday over the radio, which brought no response. They also noticed they had a bilge pump working. They would later learn that Stamas builds their boats just for such instances.
Rumer manually set the anchor because the windlass was knocked out and used all 600 feet of his anchor rode to stop their drift in over 200 feet of water. When he went to figure out what he and the deckhand could do to get the boat running they found that the breaker panel looked like it had melted. When they looked at the motors, they found them in the same condition.
By now, more than an hour had passed and even though the storm was going off in the distance, they could see that there were new storms on the horizon. Everyone was still wondering if the EPIRB was working, and Rumer again told them with as much confidence he could muster that the Coast Guard was on the way. “In my gut and in my mind,” Rumer later wrote, “I was just as scared as they were and unsure of it working.”
Meanwhile, Coast Guard District Seven command center had received the EPIRB alert and contacted Rumer’s wife who informed them her husband and the others were part of a fishing tournament. The USCG put a helicopter in the air.
When one of the women on the boat heard the helicopter, Rumer told the deckhand to shoot a flare off the bow of the boat. They spotted the helicopter’s shadow and fired off another. Then the helicopter turned toward them, and the VHF radio came alive. Everyone on the boat started screaming, crying and hugging.
The Coast Guard helicopter pilot asked if anybody needed immediate medical care and if anybody wanted to be rescued. With everything they'd gone through and more storms coming, nobody wanted to stay on the boat, including Rumer. One by one, the helicopter hoisted them up in the basket.
As Rumer watched the last person get pulled up he broke down and thanked God for saving everyone. He also thanked the U.S. Coast Guard for their speedy response, which he knew was only possible because of the EPIRB. Once inside the helicopter, Rumer could see the relief on everyone’s faces and broke down again.
During the hour-long helicopter ride Rumer looked out the window to see things he thought were boats that turned out to be waves, and things that he thought were waves were actual boats. It made him realize just how small people are when they're out on the water.
Back on land, he learned from the Coast Guard that they had gone to the worst possible place on the water where two storms had collided and sent 76 lighting strikes down on them.
Rumer knows why he is still alive. “I’m here today for one reason,” he wrote. “I had an EPIRB on my boat. When you go offshore fishing or boating, you’re required to have safety items on your boat: flares, life jackets, fire extinguishers, horns, and whistles; but for some reason, they don’t require us to have EPIRBs. This is an item that should be on every boat and should be required. This saved my life and six other people’s lives. With the cost of boats as expensive as they are, the cost of an EPIRB is merely pennies compared to that. The next time you decide to go out fishing or boating offshore keep that in mind. It’s not only your life that’s at stake. It’s anyone you decide to take with you.”
This story was written from Glen Rumer’s first-person account on the EPIRB manufacturer's website. You can read Rumer's entire story at acrartex.com