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Freighter crew rescues jet skier near Isle Royale in heavy fog

Jul 14, 2019 07:28AM ● By Editor

Photo:  fiveprime

By Tanda Gmiter of mlive.com - July 14, 2019

A man who left a Minnesota marina on a borrowed jet ski with plans for a 35-mile trip to Michigan’s Isle Royale had to be tracked down and rescued by a passing freighter after he got lost in the fog and the jet ski ran out of gas in Lake Superior.

Captain and crew of the 689-foot Canadian freighter Michipicoten is being credited for the rescue, which happened in the wee hours of last Tuesday morning after a call from the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to Minnesota radio station WTIP, the man was visiting Grand Portage, Minn., when he left a marina there on a borrowed jet ski. Witnesses said people told the man not to take a craft that small out to Isle Royale, an archipelago that is also a national park.

The man reportedly got lost in fog on Lake Superior. His jet ski then ran out of gas. He had a cell phone with him and was able to make a call that alerted authorities. They were able to track the signal from his cell phone to get an approximate location.

He was about 25 miles south of Isle Royale, and west of the Upper Peninsula.

At 11 p.m. Monday, July 8, the U.S. Coast Guard contacted the crew of the Michipicoten, a self-unloading bulk carrier that was on a run to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The Coast Guard asked them to search for the man astride the jet ski. From what they could tell from his cell phone’s signal, he was close to the big ship’s path.

A Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched from Air Station Traverse City to help with the search.

Rand Logistics, which owns the Michipicoten, shared a description of the search and rescue from its captain, Jonathan Barnes:

“After receiving the call, without hesitation we proceeded toward the coordinates provided by USCG. The gentleman on the jet ski had managed to have cell range for only a short period to make a call to the USCG. We were assisted by a USCG-dispatched helicopter. The crew did a fantastic job in preparing the deck to retrieve him, of course, not knowing the condition of the jet skier if found."

The freighter crew found the man in good condition, despite the chilly weather. After consulting with the Coast Guard, the captain said his crew could take the man - and the jet ski they pulled from the lake - with them on the freighter until they reached Sault Ste. Marie.

By 2 a.m. Tuesday, the Michipicoten was back on course for the Soo area - with an extra passenger aboard.

“Thank you to the crew of the Michipicoten for all your efforts for bringing this gentleman home safe to his family,” said Captain Gerry Ray, vice president of operations at Lower Lakes Towing, a subsidiary of Rand Logistics. “The crew’s search efforts at night and successful rescue are recognized by the USCG and others.

"This event is a testament to the great people we have in this company and on each one of our vessels. Congratulations for a job well done, and Bravo Zulu to all the crew members of the Michipicoten.”

Isle Royale is about 35 miles from the Minnesota mainland

Isle Royale is about 35 miles from the Minnesota mainland.

Read the account of the incident from Rand Logistics below:

On the evening of Monday, July 8, 2019, the crew of the M/V Michipicoten began a search operation in Lake Superior which led to the successful rescue of a jet skier at 0200 hours Tuesday.

The events began at approximately 2300 hours, when Michipicoten Captain Jonathan Barnes received a call from United States Coast Guard (USCG) Sector Soo regarding a missing jet skier out of Grand Portage,Minnesota. The jet skier’s last location was very close to the vessel’s intended track towards Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, approximately 25 nautical miles south of IsleRoyal in Lake Superior, west of Michigan’s UpperPeninsula.

Captain Jonathan Barnes recounted the evening, “After receiving the call, without hesitation weproceeded toward the coordinates provided by USCG. The gentleman on the jet ski had managed to have cell range for only a short period to make a call to the USCG. We were assisted by a USCG- dispatched helicopter. The crew did a fantastic job in preparing the deck to retrieve him, of course, not knowing the condition of the jet skier if found. The weather was fair, but moderately chilly. And, after some time, the jet skier was found in good health! Immediately USCG was informed, and it was discussed that the best course of action was to take him on the vessel to Sault Ste. Marie. At that time, we decided to retrieve his jet ski as well. This would prevent a future safety marine broadcast of an unmanned vessel if found. Once again, the crew did an amazing job retrieving the craft.”

By 0200 Tuesday, after all regulatory communication was complete, the Michipicoten resumed full speed and returned to the planned course to Sault Ste Marie, where the passenger could then make plans to return to his family.

“Thank you to the crew of the Michipicoten for all your efforts for bringing this gentleman home safe to his family,” commented Captain Gerry Ray, Vice President of Operations at Lower Lakes Towing. “The crew’s search efforts at night and successful rescue are recognized by the USCG and others. This eventis a testament to the great people we have in this company and on each one of our vessels. Congratulations for a job well done, and Bravo Zulu to all the crewmembers of the Michipicoten.”