SEATTLE — Coast Guard crews rescued a 55-year-old man who had been clinging to his overturned kayak for three and a half hours in Baker Bay east of Ilwaco on Jan. 17.
An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Astoria in Warrenton hoisted the kayaker after spotting him in the bay around 8 p.m. and safely transferred him in good condition to waiting emergency medical service personnel at the air station.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River received a report of a possible distressed kayaker out of Ilwaco at 5:48 p.m. The kayaker’s wife said she received a call from him via cellphone and all she heard was him yelling her name. The call dropped after several minutes and any further calls went straight to voicemail. She relayed that he usually kayaks between Ilwaco and Sand Island.
Two boatcrews aboard 47-Motor Life Boat and a 29-Foot Response Boat-Small II from Station Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, as well as the aircrew, launched to search the area.
The man was kite-powered kayaking when the nose of his kayak dove into a wave, causing the kite to fall into the water and turned it into a sea anchor. When this occurred he became tangled in the lines and was being pulled down. He was able to initially cut himself free using a dive knife and called his wife, but the kayak got overturned in the process, dumping out his flares and other equipment.
“While it’s incredibly important he was wearing his wet suit and life jacket, and had safety equipment such as flares and his dive knife, a cellphone should never be fully relied upon,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Elizabeth Wakefield, operations unit controller at Sector Columbia River. “A dependable means of communication such as a hand-held VHF radio and personal emergency position indicating radio beacon, tethered to you and not your vessel, will grant you that immediate access to call for help and broadcast your position so that help can get to you as soon as possible.”
Weather on scene was 25 mph winds, with a 50 F water temperature and a 46 F air temperature.