Sailing Class Rescued From Lake Ontario

OSWEGO, NY – Nine Oswego Maritime Foundation students and their two adult instructors are back safely on land after being rescued earlier this morning (Aug. 26).

All 11 were wearing their life jackets.

OMF president Richard Bush answers questions from the media following this morning's incident.
OMF president Richard Bush answers questions from the media following this morning's incident.

The bottom line is that everyone did what they were supposed to do in such a situation and everyone is safe, Richard Bush, president of the OMF, told Oswego County

The six sailboats capsized after winds forced them into the breakwater near Fort Ontario, he explained.

The students, ranging in age from 9 to 13 years old, have all received training in how to handle emergency situations, Bush pointed out, adding that one has logged 60 hours of training.

The students were taking part in a routine sailing class this morning in Oswego Harbor.

The winds picked up, disabling the 14-foot sailboats.

The incident “really wasn’t as huge as it might sound,” Bush pointed out.

When the group left the dock at 9 a.m., winds speeds were favorable for the class, he said.

They did some drills for about an hour. Then, about 10 a.m. the winds picked up and the instructors began gathering the students together to bring them back to the OMF dock.

“At that point, one of the boats lost one of its students overboard. As the instructors were working to retrieve him, one of the sailboats got a little too far away from where the instructors were gathering the students and they called the Coast Guard for assistance,” Bush explained.

Another student fell into the water and both wound up along the shore near Fort Ontario where they were rescued.

“The students in the class have received training, one of the girls has had over 60 hours of training and half the class has over 30 hours,” Bush said. “They have done capsize drills. They stayed with their boats (this morning) and got rafted together. They were all in their lifejackets. They were never in danger. They handled the situation properly.”

The OMF appreciates the help of everyone involved in the effort, including the Coast Guard, Oswego fire and police departments, workers at the Port of Oswego Authority and a research vessel.

“The Coast Guard was here in a moment’s notice and we appreciate them towing our boats back in,” Bush said. “They’re our neighbors. They only had to travel about 1,000 feet to come out and get us and tow us back.”

It would have been difficult to anticipate the events of this morning, Bush noted.

“The winds change, Mother Nature (is unpredictable). That’s part of sailing,” he pointed out. “They did feel that the wind was changing and were working on coming back in. The class structure is based on winds up to 15 mph.”

They follow the US Sailing Redbook Series guidelines.

“Water safety, that’s what we’re about. We’re trying to teach safe boating, and occasionally you get wet and you need to know what to do,” Bush said. “We’ve been here a long time and this is not a typical day.”

This is the OMF’s 30th year of public service in boater education.