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Quick thinking on the water

JAN. 29 — The Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans has something to be proud of: three of their junior members, Chris Algero, 15, Clerc Cooper, 14, and Jon Nunn, 14, helped save two men and a woman whose fishing boat was swamped on Jan. 13.

The three teens were sailing on the west end of Lake Pontchartrain in a 19-foot sloop when they saw a shallow-draft fishing boat 50 to 100 yards offshore tossed about in the heavy chop, its outboard motor dead, according to an article in the Times-Picayune, a local newspaper.

As they drew closer, they saw two men and a woman struggling in the cold water without PFDs. Cooper tossed her PFD to the woman and the two boys tossed a bowline for the woman to grab. As they pulled her near the boat, Cooper grabbed another PFD and jumped into the water, swimming towards the men, according to the article. The one man took the flotation device and the other grabbed a seat cushion, surfaced from the swamped boat.

“I knew all the odds were against those people in the water,” said Cooper in the article. “I knew how to swim. I’m not a certified life guard, but I had some preparation for what to do. I couldn’t watch those people drown in front of me, so I just dropped in.”

Just as Cooper hauled herself up onto the overturned hull, help arrived in the form of an 11-foot rigid inflatable boat driven by Walter Leger, a friend, and his son, Rhett, who had seen the slack sails of the teen’s boat. The two men were hauled aboard the little boat, barely conscious. Meanwhile, Algero and Nunn sailed the woman back to the yacht club and then grabbed a powerboat to rescue their friend from sitting on the overturned hull. The Coast Guard was called by Leger but did not arrive on the scene until after everyone was taken to shore. The trio was taken away by paramedics, according to the report.

The yacht club hopes to nominate the five persons involved for an annual sea rescue award sponsored by the US Sailing Association.

— Elizabeth Ellis