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Rangers, Volunteers Rescue Kayakers Caught In Heavy Seas

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

National Park News

On the morning of July 15th, Oak Island volunteer Merle Lang reported that a group of Boy Scouts in kayaks were struggling in the channel between Oak Island and the mainland.  Within minutes, Lang reported at least one member of the group had capsized and fellow kayakers were attempting a rescue. Sea conditions at the time were reported at two- to three-foot waves with sustained winds in excess of 20 knots. An adult member of the group had flipped upside down and was unable to release his spray skirt and was trapped underwater for a short period of time. He was righted with the help of one of the guides and other members of the group, but had swallowed several gulps of water and was reported to be dizzy, nauseated, and extremely fatigued. NPS maintenance employee Ken Eklund and park ranger Susan Mackreth aboard the NPS Grebe, who were transporting park VIPs Judy Michaels, a doctor, and Janice Carol, a nurse, were in the immediate area when they came upon the kayakers in distress and were on scene within minutes. They moved the injured adult aboard the vessel, where he was stabilized, monitored and transported to Buffalo Bay marina at Red Cliff. NPS safety officer Steve Witt with park rangers Damon Panek and Jim Dahlstrom in NPS Eagle conducted a quick search to locate the rest of the kayak group with the assistance of park ranger Mike McCoy, who maintained visual observation on most of the group from the Raspberry Island Lighthouse. Two additional NPS vessels assisted in locating the remainder of the group within 30 minutes. A total of 19 kayaks were involved and became separated over a two mile area due to increasing winds and wave conditions. One juvenile member of the group was taken aboard the NPS Eagle due to extreme fatigue and also was transported to Buffalo Bay marina in Red Cliff for observation and later released. The guides, operating under provisions of a commercial use authorization, were issued a citation for not having the required number of guides as required by CUA trip permit conditions.  By the end of the incident, winds were in excess of 35 knots and four- to five-foot seas were reported along their intended route.


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