Local lobstermen rescued after nine hours in life raft

Jul 21, 2014
Photo by: Matt Shannon 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 4:45 a.m. on Tuesday, July 15.

Vinalhaven — Two lobstermen spent the better part of July 15 floating in a life raft in thick fog near Vinalhaven after their fishing vessel, The Kendra and Maysie, reportedly hit a ledge and sank.

The two men, Richard Bickford of Vinalhaven and his sternman William Deane Jr. of Friendship later reported to the Marine Patrol they hit the ledge at approximately 4:45 a.m. Tuesday morning in the stretch between Leadbetter Island and Lawrys Island, known as Lawrys Narrows and quickly began taking on water, according to a news release from Maine Marine Patrol.

They deployed their life raft but, without benefit of a radio on the life raft, were exposed to the cold and rain for the next nine hours while boats passed by in the fog, despite their attempts to call out for help.

On July 15, 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 p.m., 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 in a news release. “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 other than the air horn, which allowed Shannon and his crew to hear the men yell for help. “If we had a motor, we 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 p.m.

“We got a call from Mr. Bickford’s girlfriend who had been called by him from a cellphone 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 nine 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 U.S. Coast Guard continues to investigate the cause of the incident.

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