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Sailor survives 13 hours in water

Alone in the water with no life jacket and watching your boat sail away — it’s the nightmare of any sailor. But Jim Nelson beat the odds when he survived 13 hours in the water, according to a report on

Nelson, 53, was sailing his 23-foot O’Day on Lake Michigan’s Green Bay for about four hours last Sunday. The Wisconsin sailor had just turned around to head back to the harbor at about 2 p.m. when the boom knocked him into the water near Long Tail Point, according to the report.

“I surfaced, and I was looking around for my boat — and the motor was running, and the sail was up. And there was the boat going off to the southeast,” says Nelson in the report. “And I thought, Ah man, not gonna be a good day.”

With his life jacket on the boat, Nelson started swimming, floating and treading water in an effort to get back to the eastern shore of the bay. A search wouldn’t begin for another six hours, when his boat was discovered adrift by fellow boaters and his wife called the Coast Guard, informing them Nelson hadn’t returned yet, according to the report.

Coast Guard Station Green Bay launched vessels and helicopters, and several recreational boaters joined the search. Nelson told the Northwestern newspaper he could see everyone around him, but they couldn’t see him. After 2 a.m. Monday morning, a rescue swimmer from a Coast Guard helicopter from Traverse City,Mich., saw Nelson waving his arms through his night-vision goggles. He was hoisted to the helicopter and taken to St. VincentHospital near Green Bay, where he was treated for dehydration.

“Two rules that will be in effect from now on is, No. 1, wear a life jacket; No. 2, never sail alone,” Nelson said in the report.

— Elizabeth Ellis