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Stranded jet skier rescued south of Isle Royale

Fog can roll in on Lake Superior suddenly. Photo by Rhonda Silence
Fog can roll in on Lake Superior suddenly. Photo by Rhonda Silence

A visitor to the North Shore attempted to make it to Isle Royale National Park on Monday, July 8 and found himself lost in the fog on Lake Superior.

Witnesses say the man left the Grand Portage Marina on a borrowed jet ski despite warnings that it was not legal to operate that sort of watercraft at Isle Royale National Park. Bystanders at the marina also cautioned the man that it would not be safe to take the small craft that far out on Lake Superior.

Fog rolled in and the man ended up about 20 miles south of Isle Royale’s Washington Harbor, where he ran out of gas. He was able to get cell phone service and called his friend, telling him he was lost in the fog.

His friend called the Cook County Sheriff’s Office for help, which referred the rescue to the U.S Coast Guard. The Coast Guard used the man’s cell phone to lock in his location. A helicopter launched from Traverse City, Michigan.

In the meantime, the Canadian freighter, the Michipicoten encountered the lost jet skier and picked him up. He was transported to the freighter’s ultimate destination, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

At that time, the ship’s crew decided to retrieve the man’s jet ski as well. In a shipping industry publication, they explained that retrieving the jet ski would prevent a future safety marine broadcast of an unmanned vessel if found.

The Coast Guard does not release names of the people involved in incidents, but Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Joe Keough of the Superior North Station in Grand Marais told WTIP that having a cell phone—a means to call for help-- saved the man. He also had a float plan, having told his friend where he was going. He apparently also had appropriate safety gear.

Asked what he would say to anyone who wanted to try the trip to Isle Royale on a small craft, Boatswain's Mate Keough said he would advise against it. Keough said, “I’ve been doing Coast Guard business here on the North Shore for quite a while. I know that Lake Superior can go from flat calm to violent waves in a very short time. I do not recommend it.”

For more information on the rescue of the jet skier from a shipping industry publication Rand Logistics, Inc. , click here