Coast Guard Urges Extreme Caution After Winds Cause Boat to Capsize in Lake Michigan


Beachgoers and sailing enthusiasts along Lake Michigan are being warned after strong winds and aggressive waves caused over two dozen boats to drop out of the annual sailing race from Chicago, IL to Mackinac Island, MI on Sunday, July 16. A capsized sailboat in the lake prompted further warnings from the Coast Guard and other officials. 

The National Weather Service warned on Sunday morning that "life-threatening waves and currents are expected at the beaches. People visiting the beaches should stay out of the water."

Warnings for waves anywhere from five to eight feet were given in addition to riptide warnings on Sunday morning. 

"High waves and heavy surfs can unexpectedly sweep a person off of structures and into the water," the Coast Guard warned in a public statement.

Despite being the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world, the forecast made more than a few Mackinac race participants nervous.

According to race organizers, the weather conditions resulted in a surprising 29 boats dropping out as of Sunday afternoon. Beyond the high waves and dangerous riptides, the forecast warned of strong winds, ranging anywhere from 25 to 35 MPH. Homeowners may not have had to worry about the winds, as most vinyl siding is rated for winds up to 110 MPH. But those visiting the beach and sailing on the water had every reason to be cautious.

For one boat, caution didn't cut it. 

Race organizers reported that the boat High Priority 2 capsized at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night. The Coast Guard reports that the vessel capsized as a result of the 35 MPH winds that were coursing across the lake. Four passengers were on board at the time of the accident, but only two were wearing life jackets.

Thanks to a good Samaritan who was also participating in the boat race, three red flares were spotted where High Priority 2 had capsized. The Samaritan found all four of High Priority 2's passengers on its capsized hull and contacted the Coast Guard.

All four passengers were rescued in good condition and did not require any medical attention. Considering that an estimated 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater is dumped into U.S. water annually, it's lucky the boat passengers weren't in the water for very long.

According to the Coast Guard, beach hazard statements with high-risk swim conditions at beaches all along western, southern, and eastern Lake Michigan remained in effect through the following Monday morning.

"Exposed beaches are more likely to experience the most significant wave and current impacts," according to the National Weather Service.

For full story, pick up a copy of the MONTH XX issue of The Allegan County News/The Union Enterprise/The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.

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