, Salem, MA

Local News

March 15, 2013

Heard Around Town: And now a word from a sailor rescued at sea

SALEM — How was your week?

Well, no matter how bad it was, it couldn’t have been worse than David Polan’s.

On Wednesday morning, while most of us were deciding whether to have a second doughnut with our coffee, the 41-year-old Cambridge man was clinging to his capsized, 10-foot sailboat in Salem Harbor, fighting for his life.

Polan is an experienced sailor who left Winter Island on a “frostbite” sail on the chilly 40-degree waters. Somewhere near the Misery islands, the day sailer flipped over and Polan fell into the water, where he clung to his boat for a reported 20 minutes. He made a mayday call and was rescued by Salem Harbormaster Bill McHugh and Assistant Harbormaster Patrick Mulligan.

Here, let him tell his story.

“I’m the sailor that was rescued from the drink Wednesday morning and, without hesitation or doubt, absolutely owe my life to all the responders and care-providers involved — Thank you all!!! ...” Polan wrote in an email to The Salem News that he also posted online.

“My time in the water was probably actually closer to 30-35 minutes, but that’s just a best guess in hindsight from trying to reconstruct what happened ... the long and short of it, though, is that if it weren’t for their efforts, and if I hadn’t been able to ultimately get to the VHF (portable radio) submerged (but thankfully tethered) under the boat and place the mayday that called them to the scene, I wouldn’t be here writing this now!

“I’ve been sailing small boats my whole life and have never (well, maybe once or twice as a child) capsized ... and so error/lesson-learned. No. 1: Confidence in one’s abilities should never outweigh due prudence. ...

“I should have known better than to court danger by not wearing a drysuit at this time of year! (Thank goodness this lesson learned wasn’t at the expense of life.) ...

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