Missing Sailor Found On Coatue Early Sunday After Extensive Search

Jason Graziadei •

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Photo by Cary Hazlegrove | NantucketStock.com

A missing sailor was found alive and well after beaching on Coatue early Sunday morning following an extensive search involving multiple public safety agencies and non-profit groups.

The lone sailor, whose family reported him missing after he never returned Saturday night following an evening sail out of Polpis Harbor, was located on the harbor side of Coatue, near Fourth Bend. The man was found in his 16-foot sailboat by island lifeguard Justin Roethke, who was scouring the shoreline of Coatue on a 4-wheeler as part of the search party.

Roethke, a lifeguard supervisor who graduated from NHS last month, said he received a call from assistant harbormaster Shane Carey at around 12:30 a.m. who stated that he and harbormaster Sheila Lucey were looking for a missing person. Roethke, along with supervisor Kevin Johnson and lifeguards Jake Johnson and Charles Blanc went on standby in the event ATVs were launched.

"We got them ready to go and all of the gear ready. We had two ATVs so we split up with one going west and the other going east," Roethke said.

Nantucket Harbormaster Sheila Lucey said the man’s adult children reported him missing after he failed to return home after dark from his evening sail. The search included Lucey and her team in a patrol boat and her lifeguards on ATVs, along with Coast Guard Station Brant Point’s 24-foot boat, the Nantucket police and fire departments, the Trustees of Reservations’ Diane Lang, and the Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s ranger based on Coatue.

“He (the sailor) got disoriented in the fog and felt the safest thing was to stay beached and he just laid down on his boat,” Lucey said. “So this was a good ending and a good effort by everyone involved. The fog was extremely thick so search efforts were difficult.”

Roethke said he located the man at around 2:45 a.m. and assessed him. He said the man was in good condition and surprisingly calm and composed despite the situation. Kevin Johnson and Lang then loaded him into the Trustees of Reservations truck to be taken to the Wauwinet gatehouse to be evaluated for potential hypothermia but ultimately refused transport.

“We had information that he usually sails in the (Polpis) harbor, so we focused our search in those areas,” Lucey said. “We decided we needed to launch some ATVs for shoreside search, and so we contacted Diane Lang.”

The search began around 11:15 p.m. Saturday night. and also included police and fire personnel walking the shoreline of Polpis Harbor looking for the sailor. 

“We leaned on our training from Sheila as always. She’s great," Roethke said. "But yeah the fog was so heavy. There was like zero visibility. It could happen to anybody if you don’t have radar in fog like that. Glad he was alright."

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