Plover to the rescue

Published on Thu, Jun 21, 2001 by Brendan Shriane

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Plover to the rescue

By Brendan Shriane

Richard Sturgill, captain of the Plover foot ferry had an exciting first weekend running the passenger ferry between Semiahmoo and Blaine marina. Not only did Sturgill rescue a man who had been thrown from his boat into Drayton Harbor, he did it in front of the editor and publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Roger Oglesby, and his wife, Colleen. “You never know who you’re talking to,” Sturgill said.

Ironically enough, Sturgill had convinced the Oglesbys to take the ferry trip even though they said they were afraid of the water.

Oglesby was impressed enough to mail a letter, dated May 31, to city manager Gary Tomsic about his marine rescue experience. In it he wrote that the crew members “are friendly and competent, and when they spotted someone in trouble they offered assistance immediately and graciously. The Plover and its crew are an asset to the City of Blaine.”

The unidentified man told Sturgill he had been using a new boat given to him by a friend when the motor engaged a little quicker than he expected, sending him into the water and his boat in a tight circle on the other side of the bay. When Sturgill and crew member Brenda Jones pulled the man out, the boat was one-quarter mile from the man, going in circles. “We didn’t bother to go get it,” Sturgill said. Tahoma owner Nick Bartlett retrieved the boat for the man later that day.

Sturgill said the man did not have hypothermia, but was quite a ways out. His flotation device, also new, was not deployed. Apparently, the man did not know how to inflate it. The man was wearing shorts and no shirt.

Sturgill was touring around Drayton Harbor looking at wildlife on the journey back to Blaine when he noticed someone swimming. One of his friends was out swimming, but he didn’t think he’d be swimming in that particular area. Sturgill could tell this person wasn’t out there for exercise. “He wasn’t swimming the crawl – he was dog-paddling,” Sturgill said.

“I pulled up behind him and yelled on a bull horn ‘Wave your arms if you need help.’” The man did wave his arms and Sturgill instructed Jones to throw the life ring to the man.

When the Plover crew pulled the man out, he was only 500 feet from the Blaine mud flats but was headed the other direction, towards Semiahmoo, almost a mile away.

“He wasn’t panicked. He wasn’t cognizant of the danger he was in,” Sturgill said. It would have been a long swim in the cold waters. “He may have made it, you never know, but we were obligated to give assistance.”

“We were lucky. He was lucky,” Sturgill said.

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