Skipper rescued by helicopter after rogue wave sends him overboard

Rescuer winches overboard sailor George Rockwood up into the helicopter
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The experienced sailor had a life jacket on (full marks), but no tether, when a rogue wave sent him overboard this week, leaving an untrained sailor as the only person onboard. This is a lesson in minimal training for casual sailors, and the value of being tethered even when the weather is fair.

The U.S. Coast Guard then rescued the 77-year-old sailor who had gone overboard, plucking him from roughs seas by helicopter at the end of a six-day sailing trip with his grandson.

Steven Rockwood, 19, said his grandfather, George Rockwood, of Harwichport, went overboard off their sailboat near Craigville Beach in Centerville about 2:30 p.m. The boat was about 3.5 miles off the beach at the time when it was hit with a rogue wave.

'It was as though I had vaulted out of the boat, because she gave a lurch with the sea,' Rockwood said, adding that when he fell he was concerned for his grandson, a Wisconsin native who hasn't done much sailing.

'I wondered what Steve was going to do. And very fortunately he threw me the cushion,' Rockwood said. He also used his cell phone to call 911.

'I have no idea how to sail the boat to pick him up,' an anguished Steven was heard saying on the call.

Rockwood continues with his story. 'And then I waited. I thought I might drift down to Falmouth and find a buoy on the way to climb up or something,' Rockwood said.

A Coast Guard helicopter spotted Rockwood, an experienced sailor who was wearing a life jacket, in the water about an hour later because of that bright orange cushion.

'Fortunately, he had his life jacket on and that really changed the story,' said Coast Guard Lt. Joseph Klinker.
Rockwood was plucked out of the water by Coast Guard helicopter and flown to Air Station Cape Cod where he was treated by paramedics.

'This case exemplifies the importance of wearing a lifejacket,' said Petty Officer first Class Jessica Castillo. 'Every time boaters go out on the water, they should always have their lifejackets on.'

The Coast Guard said the weather conditions at the scene included 5- to 8-foot seas with 25- to 30-knot winds, making it difficult for Hyannis rescue crews to ride out to rescue Steven.

'We had considerable fog and definitely some high winds out there,' said Lt. Bob Hennessey of Hyannis Fire and Rescue. Rockwood praised his Eagle Scout grandson and the Coast Guard for saving his life