It started out as a fun Labor Day weekend excursion for Mark Langmas of Everett, but ended with way more excitement than he’d bargained for when he found himself thrown into the middle of Monday’s water rescue just off Edmonds’ Marina Beach.
“I’ve been boating all my life, and been out in a range of conditions,” he said. “But honestly, this was the roughest I’ve ever personally experienced. Those waves were 8-10 feet and really choppy.”
Langmas had cruised down to Des Moines in his 24-foot Bayliner to spend time with friends who live near the marina, planning to return to Everett on Monday.
“First thing I did that morning was check the weather report,” he said. “It called for winds to start coming up around mid-day, so I figured I’d gas up and get an early start.”
The water was flat and smooth when he pulled out of Des Moines shortly after 8 a.m., but conditions deteriorated quickly
“When I left Des Moines I was making about 25 knots, but by the time I got to Elliott Bay things had gotten pretty choppy and I was lucky to be going 5,” he relates. “I thought about turning back but decided to push on to Edmonds and decide from there.”
By the time he got to Edmonds, it was a no-brainer.
“I started heading for the marina figuring I’d wait it out,” he said. “As I approached, I saw a bunch of floating debris in the water — boat cushions, overturned ice chests, bags of potato chips — it was a real debris field.
“Then all of a sudden there were five folks in life jackets right in front of me — if I’d been 100 yards either way I would have missed them,” he added. “It was just luck of the draw that I saw them at all. I never saw their boat — it was gone.”
Langmas immediately got on the VHF radio and called 911 on his cell phone to report the incident, at the same time trying to maneuver his boat and throw a line to the people in the water.
“The 911 operator wanted me to stay on the phone, but it was all I could do to throw them a rope and keep the boat under control at the same time,” he said. “My boat is pretty good sized and can handle some rough seas, but that’s the worst I’ve ever been in. I was really at the mercy of the waves. The boat was bouncing up and down and the wind kept blowing the rope off target. I didn’t want to get too close, but I knew they couldn’t last long in that cold water.”
He managed to get a rope to one of the victims and haul her into his boat.
“She was cold, her leg had a pretty bad cut, and I think she was in shock,” he said.
By that time, first responders were on the beach, emergency vehicles had arrived, a fire rescue boat was heading out from shore, and the Washington State ferry crew had lowered their inflatable rescue boat and was speeding to the scene.
“Lucky thing the ferry was right there when this happened,” he added
After pulling the others out of the water, the first responders directed Langmas to follow them into the marina, but just as they approached the entrance, they turned their boats around.
“I wasn’t sure what was going on at first, and then I looked and saw this monster wave approaching,” Langmas said. He turned also, hit the wave bow on, and then spun back, following the other boats into the marina.
“Once I finally got back on shore, I took a deep breath and realized how much energy I’d used. Gave me a deepened appreciation for the first responders – doing a rescue like this is a tough job for sure,” he continued. “I just went into auto-pilot rescue mode out there. I’ve towed folks before, but never rescued anyone out of the water. There were no other boats around, so it was just fate that I was there.”
After the excitement, Langmas opted to spend the night in Edmonds. When he left for Everett the next morning, the water was flat and the journey uneventful.
Top priority after getting home was heading to the marine supply store to pick up throwable life preservers on ropes and other equipment in case he’s ever faced with a similar situation again.
“I had some life jackets and cushions on board, but nothing like that,” he said. “If this ever happens again, I’ll be ready with the right equipment.”
— By Larry Vogel