Noted Coupeville mariner rescued from Penn Cove

Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue emergency responders pull John Stone from the water in Penn Cove Thursday,.  - Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times
Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue emergency responders pull John Stone from the water in Penn Cove Thursday,.
— image credit: Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times

A well-known Coupeville mariner was rescued from the frigid waters of Penn Cove Thursday evening after falling off his sailboat.

John Stone, the former owner of the Captain Whidbey Inn, spent about 30 minutes in the water before being rescued by a Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue boat at about 6:20 p.m. Stone, 59, was transported to Whidbey General Hospital but suffered no injuries save a bruised pride.

“I’m fine now; just a little sore from trying to climb back into the boat 10 times,” Stone said.

Stone was preparing for bad weather forecast for Friday by attempting to secure his sailboat, the Cutty Sark, with a second mooring line when the dingy he was in flipped over. Although Stone attempted multiple times to right the dingy and climb back onto his sailboat, the smaller vessel was swamped and the 50-degree water temperature made the effort increasingly difficult.

“The longer you stay in, the weaker you get,” he said.

Stone’s vessel is moored about 100 yards off the Captain Whidbey Inn and it wasn’t long before people on shore noticed his struggle. Stone said one man yelled to see if he was OK. Stone responded that he wasn’t and followed with five quick blasts from the safety horn he was wearing around his neck. Stone was also wearing a life jacket.

Deputies from the Coupeville Marshal’s Office and the Island County Sheriff’s Office were on the scene within minutes, along with responders from Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue and the hospital. A paramedic and fireman attempted to row out to Stone with a neighbor’s dinghy but by the time they reached Stone, the fire department’s emergency speedboat was on scene. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter also responded to the emergency.

Stone was transported to the beach into the waiting arms of his wife, Mendy McLean-Stone. McLean-Stone said her heart was pounding when she first arrived and saw all the emergency vehicles. However, she knew he was wearing his life jacket and was further relieved when officials on the beach told her Stone was talking while in the water.

“It’s like kids, you know they’re OK when they’re still screaming,” McLean-Stone said.

Stone spent about an hour and a half in the emergency room. He said his core temperature had dropped but it was nothing a little hot cocoa couldn’t fix. Both Stone and McLean-Stone complimented the speed and efficiency of Central Whidbey’s emergency responders.

“It’s one of the real blessings of living in a small community,” McLean-Stone said.

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