Three Rescued After 11 Hours in Water During Small-Craft Advisory

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again; pay attention to weather advisories and make sure you have proper emergency equipment on board. This incident could have been very easily avoided!

Three people who braved strong winds off Cedar Key, Florida on Sunday afternoon to go sailing were pulled from the water 11 hours later after rescuers found them clinging to their overturned boat.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the boaters, ages 53, 40, and 16, had sailed into the Gulf on a 16-foot-long fiberglass catamaran.

Coast Guard officials declined to release the boaters’ names but said at least two of them were from Michigan.

A small-craft advisory had been issued by the National Weather Service on Sunday, meaning that winds had reached 20 to 33 knots and seas were at or above 7 feet high, said Todd Barron, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Ruskin.“A small-craft advisory means that it is not recommended that you go out on the water in a small boat,” Barron said. “If your boat can’t handle that much wind or waves that high, you should not go out.”

A family member called 911 around 7 p.m. to report the boaters overdue. The family member told the Coast Guard the trio planned to sail around Atsena Otie Key, which is about a mile off Cedar Key. The caller also told Coast Guard officials the boat had no motor, lights, radio or any other emergency equipment.

Barron said that while the boat was on the water, the wind was blowing at about 20 knots, with gusts as high as 25 knots. The water temperature was in the mid-60s, Barron said, and the air temperature — which had been at about 70 degrees at sunset — fell to about 55 degrees after midnight.

The Coast Guard dispatched an HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter from Clearwater on Sunday night, while the Levy County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sent officers to aid in the search.

After seven hours of searching, the trio were spotted atop the overturned hull of the boat shortly before 4:30 a.m. about two miles east of Atsena Otie Key, according to the Coast Guard.

A rescue swimmer was lowered from the helicopter and helped all three boaters into the helicopter.

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