> US SAILING Media > Sailor of the Week > 2010 > Sailor of the Week - September, 2010 > Mike Hendrickson
Sailor of the Week: September 2-8, 2010
Mike Hendrickson has been an instructor at the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center (LCCSC) for over 10 years. Man overboard and emergency drills are part of his regular curriculum. On a morning in late August, Mike was forced to put these drills into play during a real life emergency rescue.
Mike had been sailing with a group of YMCA instructors in a team building exercise for the LCCSC. With about 30 minutes left to sail, he was considering taking the Rhodes 19 back to the dock. The wind was coming out of the North West with winds at about 14 knots and waves between one to two feet high. He figured they would have a better ride back to the dock on a reach, so they sailed further west towards Juniper Island for another 10 minutes before heading to the docks. This fortunate decision, seemingly insignificant at the time, may have been a life saver.
“When I jibed the boat to head back east towards the shore, I happened to look south and see someone appear over the crest of a wave, and then disappear behind it some 100 yards away,” Mike explained. The 18-year-old had set out for a three-mile swim from her grandparents’ house in Burlington, Vt. to Juniper Island. The experienced swimmer became disoriented in the choppy conditions and change in weather. She had been treading water for five hours.
Mike determined that there was no boat around that she had capsized and noticed she was not wearing a life jacket. Mike instructed two sailors on the starboard side to keep their eyes on the swimmer. He instructed another sailor, who was a strong swimmer, to get in the water with her in case she submerged. They sailed east of her and below her so that Mike could tack the boat and approach her from leeward. “I think she was nervous when she saw me sailing away for a second and I was constantly reassuring her that we were coming for her, to relax, and keep her head above water,” added Mike. Surprisingly, she had not been found by the Coast Guard and other vessels in the area that were searching for her. “In all the times that I have taught the man overboard drill, I have always first demonstrated, and then coached sailors through the process of boat handling, assigning tasks, and what the steps are for safe recovery of someone in the water.”
Once they approached her, they pulled her in the boat. The swimmer was tired but conscious. They gave her a sweatshirt to wear and Mike put his life jacket on her for added warmth, and in case Hypothermia was a possibility. He headed back for the docks immediately and called the sailing center and Coast Guard to notify them of the rescue. “The great thing was that all of the sailors in the boat with me are educators, so they were very helpful in keeping her alert and talking,” explained Mike. They met with a Coast Guard vessel to pick her up and take her to an awaiting ambulance. She fully recovered from the incident, and her parents called the LCCSC the next day to thank Mike and the other sailors for all their efforts.
“I really just went into drill mode and practiced exactly what I had been taught to teach and what I had taught for so many years. There really is a great truth in that, training is everything.”
A life-long sailor, Mike has been a sailing instructor, facilities coordinator, and board member at the LCCSC in Burlington. He has visions of moving to the coast somewhere, so he can work on boats year round. Mike has always dreamed of being involved at some level in ocean racing, such as the Vendee Globe Race or Volvo Ocean Race.
“It is the varying conditions, experiences, people you are with and the situations you get into on the water that teach you, and they always different in so many ways.”