MUNISING, Mich. (WLUC) - Three kayakers were rescued between Sand Point and Miners Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on the afternoon of September 13. All three were treated at Munising Memorial Hospital and released that evening.
Jim Farrington, 52, from Alden, Michigan, Tolan Annis, 52,from Eagle, Michigan and Sean Royston, 47, from Cottage Grove, Wisconsin started a kayak trip from Sand Point at 10:30 AM, planning to reach Mosquito Beach that evening. Within two hours, before reaching Miners Castle, they encountered high winds with four to six foot waves. All three kayaks overturned and spilled the men into the lake.
After floating in the water for over four hours, Royston made it to land at Sand Point where he was able to contact park rangers. He said that one of his friends was on the rocks along the cliff face, and the other friend was last seen in the water, clinging to his kayak and floating away from shore. The Coast Guard was notified and dispatched a helicopter from Traverse City and a boat from Marquette.
Rangers and Alger County Sheriff’s deputies also responded by boat from Munising. Rangers soon found Farrington on the cliff face between Sand Point and Miners Castle. When the Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene, they were able to lower a rescue swimmer to Farrington, secure him to a cable and remove him from the cliff face.
Rangers and Coast Guard personnel continued searching the lake for Annis. At about 8:00 p.m., the Alger County Sheriff received a 911 call from Annis who said that he had made it to land after floating in the water for almost seven hours. Dispatchers relayed his position to searchers and the helicopter was able to locate Annis and direct ground rescuers to his location and get him to the hospital.
Rangers want to remind all kayakers on Lake Superior to make sure that they are adequately prepared for any conditions they may encounter. Check the weather forecast and marine forecast for the day you begin your trip as well as for the next couple of days. Use sea kayaks instead of small recreational kayaks, wear wet suits in cold water conditions, and always wear your life jacket while on the water. Also, try to learn some basic self rescue techniques and have a means of communication to call for help, which can be as simple as a whistle.
Drowning is the number one cause of deaths in national parks. Throughout the summer, National Park Service rangers at Pictured Rocks frequently find kayakers on the lake without basic safety equipment, some even without any life jackets onboard. All three of these men were wearing wetsuits and life jackets. One was able to survive floating in the lake for nearly seven hours. The safety equipment they had with them, and the fact that they were using it, saved their lives this day.
Three men are safe Tuesday night after a scary turn of events while kayaking on Munising Bay.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Koscielny with the U.S. Coast Guard said the Coast Guard was called at 4:48 p.m. to respond to the three men in distress kayaking in Munising Bay.
One of the men made it to shore after tipping his kayak over. He then called 911.
The Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter from Traverse City to rescue one of the men from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore cliff face between Miners Castle and Sands Point around 7 p.m.
The Coast Guard, the Alger County's Sheriff's Department and the National Parks Service began conducting search patterns on the bay searching for the third person.
According to Koscielny, the third man was found a little before 8:30 p.m. He said the kayaker was in the water holding onto the kayak when he drifted to the Sand Point area and got wedged in rocks along the lake shore. He managed to use a cell phone to call 911. 911 located him and sent his position to the Coast Guard helicopter and the National Park Service. The Coast Guard helicopter located him and three National Park Service officers hiked from road to the rocky area and were able to rescue him.
Koscielny said all three men were conscious and responsive. They were taken to Munising Memorial Hospital and treated for minor injuries.
Officials said cold-water gear and life jackets may be part of the reason for the kayakers' safe return.
Koscielny said a combination of four to six foot waves and 20-knot winds were contributing factors in the kayakers' distress.
No names are being released at this time.