In the nick of time - Soundings Online

In the nick of time

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The captain of 36-foot Hinckley yacht falls overboard and is saved by a quick-thinking college sophomore

The captain of 36-foot Hinckley yacht falls overboard and is saved by a quick-thinking college sophomore

When MassachusettsMaritimeAcademy sophomore Brian Taylor began working at the Sandwich Marina six years ago, little did he know he would save a man’s life.

It was around 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 11 with calm seas when Taylor looked up at the security camera for the fuel dock and saw a 36-foot Hinckley Picnic Boat, seemingly abandoned.

“It was just sitting there,” says Taylor. “So I walked down to the dock about 200 yards from where the office is and I walk down the dock, and then I see this red jacket hanging out of the water.”

Taylor then made out the man that the jacket belonged to and got on the phone immediately.

“I called the assistant harbormaster [David Whearty] and told him to get the harbormaster’s boat right away,” says Taylor.

Taylor then hopped into a small dinghy that was tied to one of the docked sailboats and made his way out to the powerboat, which was about 50 yards away from the docks. When he circled around, he saw the man was strapped to his boat by a line that was pulled tight across his hand, holding him in place.

“The rope was so tight, I could see it actually cutting into his hand,” says Taylor. “He was probably about a foot-and-a-half up above the water.”

Taylor would later find out the man was the Jack Erbes, who was delivering the boat to its owner in Maine. He was traveling alone and had pulled up to the fuel dock. With the lines in his hand, Erbes attempted to jump from the boat to the dock, misjudged the distance and went into the water, knocking himself unconscious momentarily when he hit his head on the concrete dock. The line then was sucked into the boat’s jet propulsion drive, which pulled it taut, pinning Erbes’ hand against the boat.

“I have been working at this marina since 1988 and this was the first time I’ve seen anything like this,” says Whearty, who assisted in the rescue by bringing the 23-foot harbormaster boat to the scene and maneuvering the yacht into a snug slip. “It was like everything that could’ve possibly gone wrong did. This is something you see once every 20 years.”

Taylor says when the Erbes saw him approaching in the dinghy, he began gaining consciousness.

“He started shouting, ‘Help me, help me!’” says Taylor. “I cut him free and he fell into the water. He wasn’t wearing a life jacket so I managed to grab him. It was hard because he was a big guy, probably about 6 feet tall and maybe 250 pounds.”

Rather than trying to pull him into the dinghy, Taylor managed to drag him over to the swim platform, where Erbes was able to get up onto the ladder. Meanwhile, Whearty shut down the yacht’s engine and began towing it into a nearby slip.

“He was probably in the water for about 15 minutes, and the water was pretty cold,” says Taylor. “I think he was probably a little hypothermic because when we were going over to the marina office, he couldn’t really walk or talk. I told him to take a shower in our restroom, but just to make the water warm, because I didn’t want to put him into shock.”

Taylor remembers giving him dry clothes they found on the yacht and when Erbes came back into the office, he asked if Whearty and Taylor had been his rescuers.

“At first, he didn’t want medical treatment, but in the office we could see the bruise on his head and there was a little bit of blood,” says Whearty. “We convinced him he should get checked out, and we called the fire department, which is right down the street, and they came right over and took him to JordanHospital in Plymouth [Mass].”

Taylor said he stayed there for the night, and came back the next morning, thanking them both profusely.

“He was able to leave and deliver the boat,” says Taylor. “Later, I also got a card from him and he called me the following Saturday.”

Taylor and Whearty were both recognized by the town a few days later in a ceremony, but Whearty gives Taylor full accolades for the rescue.

“He had already saved the guy by the time I got there,” says Whearty. “[Erbes] was just very lucky. Our boating season ends on Oct. 15 and then we stop doing night shifts. If we weren’t there, he wouldn’t have made it.”

In addition to town accolades, Taylor was also recognized by the MaritimeAcademy, which presented him with the Admiral’s Award for presence of mind in a rescue situation.

“It was crazy, but I’ve been wanting to attend the MaritimeAcademy forever,” Taylor say, adding he hopes to eventually land a position doing port security.

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