NEWBURYPORT — Four days after treacherous currents and shifting tides at the mouth of the Merrimack River are presumed to have claimed the life of former Coast Guardsman Seth Coellner, two boaters narrowly escaped a similar fate Saturday after they were forced to abandon their sinking, 20-foot recreational boat in the vicinity of the south jetty.
The two fishermen, Jorge Menese and Lourval Navarro of Lowell, reported their boat quickly began taking on water after they dropped anchor west of the Salisbury jetties in the vicinity of Buoy 10, or "the toothpick" as it's known to locals. They had just set out for a night of fishing from the Cashman Park boat launch, according to officials familiar with the mishap, and it's likely that a lack of basic boating knowledge was to blame for what happened next.
"They made an inexperienced mistake," said Boat Tow US representative Michael Goodridge, who happened to be on duty Saturday night and towed the "swamped" boat back to Cashman Park following the incident. "They were running down current and they threw the anchor over the bow, which immediately grabbed the end of their own outboard motor, which made them turn to the current, which put a wave over the back of the boat."
Salisbury Harbormaster Ray Pike said the incident was caused by inexperience on the part of the two boaters, which was exacerbated when they panicked and added weight to the stern of the boat that was already taking on water.
"If you anchor off the stern and you fish off the stern, you're going to take on water, and you might sink," Pike said. "We had one of those last year. Somebody who knows any river would know not to do that."
Thankfully for Menese and Navarro, two nearby fishermen, John Mitchell and Michele Farmer of Derry, N.H., heard their blaring horn and screams for help and called the Coast Guard. The two were rescued from the water shortly after they went overboard.