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Lobstermen Have Marine Patrol and Good Samaritan to Thank After Nine Hours in a Life Raft

Bickford rescue Marine Patrol

Pictured above left, Richard Bickford and William Deane Jr. approach the sailing vessel Kanosera in a life raft as sailboat owner Matt Shannon prepares to help them aboard. The two men had been afloat for nine hours after reportedly hitting a ledge near Vinalhaven at 4:45am on Tuesday, July 15. At right are Marine Patrol Officers Brandon Bezio and Matthew Wyman arriving to transport the two to Rockland for assessment by EMS personnel. (Photos courtesy of Matt Shannon)

Two lobstermen spent the better part of Tuesday, July 15 floating in a life raft in pea soup fog near Vinalhaven after their fishing vessel, the Kendra and Maysie, reportedly hit a ledge and sank. Luckily for them, a good-Samaritan and the Maine Marine Patrol were nearby.

The two men, Richard Bickford of Vinalhaven and his sternman William Deane Jr. of Friendship later reported to the Marine Patrol that they hit the ledge at approximately 4:45 am Tuesday morning in the stretch between Leadbetter Island and Lawrys Island known as Lawrys Narrows and quickly began taking on water. They deployed their life raft but, without benefit of a radio on the life raft, were exposed to the cold and rain as they drifted for the next 9 hours while boats passed by in the fog despite their attempts to call out for help.

On Tuesday, Matt Shannon from Rockland and crew members Rob Stevens and Kristina Whitsell of Arizona were sailing from Carvers Harbor on Vinalhaven to Rockland Harbor aboard Shannon's 23 foot sailboat, the Kanosera, in dense fog that reduced visibility to less than 200 feet. At approximately 1:30 in the afternoon Shannon and his crew members, nearly half way between Vinalhaven and Rockland, heard an unfamiliar sound between blasts on an air horn being used by Stevens to signal the Kanosera's location to other boaters. “We heard someone screaming for help,” said Shannon. “At first I thought it was people messing with us.”

But within minutes, a life raft appeared through the mist with two men aboard. “It was a very surreal experience,” said Shannon.

Fortunately for Bickford and Deane, the sailboat made no sound as it moved through the fog, other than the occassional air horn blast, which allowed Shannon and his crew to hear the men yell for help. “If we had a motor, I would not have heard them.”

Shannon and his crew brought the two on board and gave them food, water and dry clothes. “They were both in jeans and t-shirts and the sternman was cold and shivering, so we put him in a sleeping bag to warm him up,” said Shannon.

Both were starting to feel better when Marine Patrol Officers Matthew Wyman and Brandon Bezio arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon, “We got a call from Mr. Bickford’s girlfriend who had been called by him from a cell phone on-board the sail boat,” said Officer Wyman. “When we arrived, they were both recovering but still feeling the effects of being exposed to the cold and rain for 9 hours. We brought them aboard to transport them to Rockland and made sure they were comfortable and warm. We contacted the Rockland Fire/EMS, which met us at the dock.”

“Kudos to the two Marine Patrol officers,” said Shannon. “They took over and did a really great job. It’s nice to know they are out there when you’re on the water.”

The Marine Patrol transported the two men to Rockland where they were checked out by Rockland Fire/EMS personnel and released. Neither was transported to the hospital.

The US Coast Guard continues to investigate the cause of the incident.

The Marine Patrol is a Bureau of the Maine Department of Marine Resource that provides law enforcement, search and rescue, public health, maritime security, and public safety services on Maine’s coastal and tidal waters. More information about the Maine Marine Patrol can be found at http://www.maine.gov/dmr/bmp/homepage.html.