June 19, 2019

Periwinkle harvester survives squall

JONESPORT — A periwinkle harvester was released Sunday night from Down East Community Hospital in Machias where he was treated for hypothermia after being rescued in the afternoon by the Coast Guard from an uninhabited island after a snow squall.

Timothy Pottle couldn’t be reached by phone, but Jonesport fisherman Milton Merchant said the 27-year-old man was resting at home Monday after nearly freezing to death on Sheep Island, where he was stranded for several hours Sunday afternoon.

“He told me he was beginning to wonder if anybody was going to come. He said he did a lot of praying,” Merchant said Monday. “The wind was really screeching, frigid cold.”

Merchant said Pottle also works for him aboard his scallop boat. He described Pottle as a “hard worker,” who had ventured out to Sheep Island in midafternoon to pick periwinkles from the rocks at low tide. He said Pottle finished harvesting but was unable to maneuver his 18-foot Fiberglas open boat off the small island located east of Beals Island.

Merchant said Pottle shot off flares and shone his flashlight toward Beals Island before crawling into a shack to shelter himself from the arctic blast. He said the fisherman had gotten his feet wet in the process of securing the boat.

On Beals Island, resident Ray Brooks saw a dim light that appeared to be coming from the vicinity of Sheep Island. His girlfriend had spotted the flares and alerted him. Brooks flashed his truck’s headlights back.

He also conferred with another island resident, Isaac Beal, who informed the Coast Guard station in Jonesport, according to Merchant.

Jonesport Station’s senior Officer Jonathan Kinney says the wind was blowing 30 knots out of the northwest and the seas were running 2 to 4 feet when a 44-foot Coast Guard boat was dispatched. He said the vessel was unable to find the origin of the flare. He said a 21-foot craft was then sent out to search along the shore of Sheep Island.

Kinney said the Coast Guard craft was pushed by the surf onto the northwest shore of the island. He said the crew went ashore and thought they heard someone crying for help. He said they found Pottle huddled in the ramshackle shed.

“He was in a fetal position, crying and incoherent,” he reported Monday.

Kinney said Pottle was carried to the boat and taken to the mainland.

Merchant said he and Beal were preparing to set out to rescue the stranded periwinkle fisherman when they learned he had finally been taken off the island. He considers the man lucky to be alive after his ordeal.

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