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Father and son pulled from Boston Habor after holding onto a cooler to stay alive

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Grace Zokovitch

Boston Herald

On Wednesday evening, following a call about a boat in trouble off the rocky coast of Graves Light, two police officers in the Harbor Unit didn’t know quite what they were in for. “We approached and saw just the tip of a submerged vessel,” said Garrett Boyle, one of the cops called out to the scene.“ As we looked closer we saw something we thought maybe was a lobster trap a few yards away. But as we approached, it looked bigger.”

A cooler, the officers realized. And two heads sticking out just above the water.

They knew there were occupants of the boat, said Officer Stephen Merrick, who was driving the police vessel, and finding them still so close to the sinking ship was a stroke of luck — “the best-case scenario.”

But the nearly submerged pair, a 76-year-old father and his middle-aged son, were weak and struggling, Merrick said, fear evident on their faces.

Their day of fishing had taken a rough turn when the boat’s engine got tangled in some lobster trap line and died. Adrift, the 28-foot Grady White was swept in the current and dashed into the rocks of the island nearby.

The two called 911 as the vessel sank, cut off as they were forced to abandon ship and brave the water.

The duo drifted alone between 10 to 20 minutes before the police arrived, the officers said, the older man struggling even in his life vest and ingesting significant salt water.

“It doesn’t take long to get hypothermic,” Merrick noted.

Pulling the vessel up, the officers were looking to get them out of the water “as quickly as possible,” Boyle said.

“You may have eyes on them, like ‘Oh, we have them — they’re safe,’ ” Boyle said. “But they’re not. It can go wrong very quick.”

They hauled the pair up — “like dead weight” — first the father, then the son. The cops gave them a quick evaluation and passed both along to EMS. Several other officials joined the rescue and a private towing service lifted the submerged vessel.

Both were treated for minor scrapes and released shortly.

These sorts of shipwreck incidents don’t occur often, the officers said, “but it happens.”

There’s not much the victims could’ve done in this situation, Merrick said, but the incident only illustrates the need to keep life jackets “readily accessible.” Stranded in the choppy ocean, the vests were key to the men’s ability to hang on.

“And don’t panic,” Boyle added, advising just to hang on until help arrives.

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