A sailor who had recently practiced water rescues put his training to work Sunday night and pulled two people from an overturned kayak in Penn Cove.
Dave Steckman, the Oak Harbor Yacht Club Sail Fleet captain, was aboard his 24-foot sailboat “Juan Solo” with family members when he saw something in the water that didn’t look quite right.
Around 5 p.m., Steckman was sailing through the middle of Penn Cove and heading back toward Oak Harbor. Looking through his binoculars, he saw a two-person kayak had flipped over in the water. A young couple, neither of them wearing life jackets, were clinging to the sides of the kayak.
Just a few days ago, Steckman said he had practiced man-overboard simulations with his race crew using a rescue ladder. For that reason, he felt confident in his ability to help the couple to safety.
When asked, the kayakers responded that they had only been in the water about three or four minutes. They were able to use the rescue ladder and were pulled aboard the “Juan Solo.”
During his time in the Army, Steckman said he had performed many high-altitude search-and-rescue missions.
This was his first water rescue.
He was prepared to call medical services for the couple, but after evaluating the pair for hypothermia, determined they were not in danger since it had only been a few minutes since their kayak had capsized and left them out in open water.
One of the kayakers was concerned about his keys and phone, which he believed to be trapped under the kayak.
The “Juan Solo” towed the couple’s upside-down kayak to the Coupeville boat launch, relying on the air pocket to trap any floating items.
When they reached the shore, the kayaker’s backpack containing his keys were still in the vessel. His phone was also in the kayak and in working condition.
Steckman hopes the scare will be a lesson for the pair.
“It’s a good lesson for not only the community, the importance of having a life jacket on when you’re kayaking especially,” he said.
“If we had not been there, it would have been a different story.”