Isle Royale jet ski gambit fails

ISLE ROYALE — An Alexandria, Virginia, man was rescued in Lake Superior by a Canadian freighter last week after attempting to jet ski to Isle Royale National Park.

The 42-year-old man was riding a Kawasaki jet ski to the island from Grand Portage, Minnesota, according to a call log provided by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. They were notified by a friend of the jetskier’s in Florida about 8:20 p.m. July 7. The jetskier called his friend to tell him he had hit a fog bank and had only a “fume of gas” left.

The sheriff’s office contacted Verizon for ping information. The most recent reading was hours old, and the phone appeared to be off, Verizon told them.

The man called the sheriff’s office about 10:01 p.m., telling him he could hear a ship’s fog horn. He responded to the ship with his own horn, but could not attract notice, he told dispatchers.

About 10:05 p.m., the jet skier was able to text an image of his compass, which was relayed to a U.S. Coast Guard dispatch. His coordinates were determined to be about 25 miles southwest of Isle Royale, putting the jet ski halfway between the island and Ontonagon.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched from Traverse City and assisted in the search, said Master Chief Alan Haraf of the 9th Coast Guard District Public Affairs office. The Coast Guard notified all vessels traveling in that area of the lake. Coast Guard vessels were dispatched, but the Canadian ship Michipicoten was closer.

About 11:43 p.m., the man was safely aboard Michipicoten, which had been traveling nearby.

“The crew did a fantastic job in preparing the deck to retrieve him, of course, not

knowing the condition of the jet skier if found,” Captain Jonathan Barnes said in a news release from Rand Logistics, the ship’s owner. “The weather was fair, but moderately chilly. And, after some time, the jet skier was found in good health.”

The ship also retrieved the man’s jet ski to avoid reports of an unmanned vessel. It continued its course to Sault Ste. Marie, where the man disembarked.

Isle Royale does not allow personal watercraft at the island, according to the park’s website.

Liz Valencia, Isle Royale’s chief of interpretation and cultural resources, said this was the first time she knows of where someone has tried to reach the island from the mainland via jets.

While Lake Superior can be a fun resource to enjoy, it can be deadly when weather changes, Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen said in an email Tuesday.

“It has been my experience in 50-plus years of living on its shore that watercraft, no matter the size are at the mercy of the lake and the weather patterns which emerge quickly,” he said. “Everyone who recreates on the lake should always have adequate emergency gear and methods for contact when situations arise.”