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Sailing boat crew turn rescuers of kayaker

by Times Beacon Record/Sail-World on 9 Sep 2012
kayak overturned SW
'It was definitely not a normal day at work, that's for sure,' she said. With all rescue stories mainly focused on rescues of sailing boats and their crews, it is good to congratulate a sailing boat crew who rescued a drowning kayaker who had lost his kayak in New York recently.

It was young sailing instructors watching over junior sailors in Port Jefferson Harbor who got more than they bargained for recently, when they rescued the nearby troubled kayaker.

The teens and young adults are instructors for the Setauket Yacht Club's junior sailing program. Several of them were on the water with their students recently when they spotted an overturned kayak drifting.

Rachel Sorrentino, a 17-year-old Stony Brook resident, said there was no one near the kayak, so she and the other instructors in her small motorboat went over to investigate. 'We see the man in the water, struggling to breathe.' Sorrentino told the Times Beacon Record. She said he was 'almost completely submerged' and she could hear him gasping for air each time his face surfaced.

The instructors threw the man a life jacket, according to head counselor Anna Folz. She said originally the man just asked for a life jacket — he had no flotation device with him in the kayak — and declined other assistance.

Folz, a 20-year-old from Stony Brook, said the man said he went out on the water with a woman who had children in the junior sailing program.

The pair had gotten separated and the woman was unaware of what had befallen her friend.

Rachel Gutman, a 16-year-old counselor who was in the second boat to arrive, said it was difficult getting the kayaker into their motorboat. 'He thought he was helping a lot' to get himself onto the boat, but he was 'a deadweight.' According to Gutman, it took a full five minutes to pull the man aboard.

Folz said the instructors sat him up and he was leaning against her legs 'because his body was weak at the time.' They drove him back to the yacht club and she ran to call 911 for an ambulance.

Gutman, from Stony Brook, said she was afraid he was going to die, but by the time she and the others got him to land, he was able to stand up.

Sorrentino said, 'I remember the man being very confused and he seemed more concerned about his kayak rather than the fact that he almost died.'

This was her second save of the summer. Sorrentino, a counselor for five years, said one of her young campers got his hand stuck in a boat that had flipped over, and the weight of the vessel was more than his life jacket could support. She dove in and freed his hand.

While rescuing the kayaker, she said, it was 'terrifying seeing this man drowning.'

'It was definitely not a normal day at work, that's for sure,' Folz said. She added she was glad the instructors were there to help the man, but it was 'a pretty scary thing that happened and it could have been really horrifying ... if things went differently.'
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