This past Saturday, Valentine's Day, two Maine lobsterman from Matinicus Island came home with a gift that others in their situation have not been so fortunate to receive — they lived to fish another day.

A blizzard was due on Sunday and Craig MacLeod and his son, Samuel, were on their way to the mainland town of Rockland to stock up on supplies. As they got close to the mainland and Monroe Island, their 32-foot boat started taking on water.

Fishing vessel safety training sessions like the one the U.S. Coast Guard will conduct on Friday, March 6 at the Maine Fishermen's Forum at the Samoset Resort in Rockport can help fishermen be better prepared to survive at-sea emergencies. Mike Young/Maine Fishermen's Forum photo
Things must have gone downhill fairly fast, for before long the MacLeods were in the water. The air temperature was 7 degrees, the water was 32 degrees, and the wind was blowing 10 knots. In those conditions it's not long before you first start to lose coordination and then consciousness.

But the MacLeods had two things going for them: They had survival suits onboard and they had time to get in them. Then the state ferry on its run from Vinalhaven Island to Rockland spotted the two men, got them into their rescue boat and handed them off to the Coast Guard, after which an emergency medical crew treated and released them.

The MacLeods' gift of life was of their own doing: The boat was equipped with survival suits and they didn't hesitate to put them on. As a Coast Guard officer later told a Bangor Daily News reporter, "We credit them for being prepared. It saved their lives."

The point is, once you drop the mooring and head out of the harbor, your life may depend on being prepared for the worst. That includes having a working radio, an EPIRB, and, yes, PFDs and survival suits. Just ask the MacLeods.

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