Manhattan Beach Neighbor Plays Role In Boat Rescue

Stuart Fries, a Manhattan Beach resident and Sheepshead Bites reader, was boating yesterday morning, when he and his mates struck upon a fisherman who had been tossed overboard in the Rockaway Inlet. Too heavy to be lifted into the boat, this is his story – and photos – of how they rescued the man with the help of the Coast Guard, NYPD and others.

I was fishing on a friend’s boat in Rockaway Inlet near the Roundhouse and Buoy #10. At about 9:00 a.m., we see a 26-foot open boat, with someone in the water holding on to the back of the boat’s exhaust pipe, and there is no one on the boat. He yells to us, and we head over to him.

He is not in danger at the moment, and we were puzzled as to what happened.  He had caught what apparently was a large striped bass and was fighting the fish on one side of the boat. Another boat came racing by, and the wave knocked him overboard – together with rod, reel and fish in the water that he had been fighting.

We had no ladder on our boat, and while we had several rope lines that we tried to make loops and a ladder for him to get him up on to our boat, he was about 250 lbs., and impossible to lift him into our boat.

Captain Don Ceriello contacted the U.S. Coast Guard on his VHF radio and described the situation. While there was no immediate danger to either the person in the water as well as his boat that was drifting in Rockaway Inlet, within a few minutes a police helicopter from Floyd Bennett Field was on its way to us. While the helicopter was overhead, two divers jumped in to the water and secured the individual.

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Within a relatively short time, a small armada of boats arrived on the scene. First, a small Fire Rescue Boat arrived. The police divers were able to slide the wet fisherman into the side of this boat, as a small door was removed for this operation. Next to arrive was the Park Police in their boat. Then, a first police boat, then the U.S. Coast Guard, then two more police boats.

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While they certainly were not all needed, it was comforting to know that, despite the fact that none of these boats were stationed nearby, somehow they all arrived pretty quickly and probably from great distances.

While everyone was doing something, the two divers went back up a chair lift to the helicopter, and flew back to the base.

All seemed to end well, except for the lost fishing rod and fish…