Kayaker near hypothermic shock when plucked a mile from Sonoma Coast

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A kayaker blown off course and dumped from his boat while checking crab pots in Bodega Bay on Sunday was rescued from the chilly ocean waters just in time, thanks to several precautions that helped keep him alive, emergency officials said.

For starters, he told his wife where he was going and about how long he would be out, authorities said. The unidentified crabber also wore a dry suit and a personal flotation device when he left Doran Beach around midday Sunday to go check his crab traps out by the Bodega Bay jetty.

Unfortunately, the wind picks up in the afternoons off the Sonoma Coast. The kayaker, said to be in his 40s, found himself struggling to paddle inshore, and instead went farther and farther afield, emergency personnel said.

Around 1 p.m., his wife, who had been keeping an eye on him from shore, notified a Sonoma County park ranger that she had lost sight of her husband, Bodega Bay Fire Capt. Lou Stoerzinger said.

The Sonoma County sheriff’s helicopter, Henry 1, already was airborne and immediately began an aerial search, while the Coast Guard launched its 47-foot life boat from Doran Beach. Firefighters from Bodega Bay, Bodega Volunteer Fire, and Goldridge joined the search by ground, along with state and county park rangers, Stoerzinger said.

About 20 minutes into the search, the Henry 1 crew found the kayak, empty and adrift several miles down the coast from Doran Beach. Sheriff’s Sgt. Henri Boustany, who was onboard the aircraft, was deposited on a blufftop to suit up in case he needed to get in the water for a rescue, but the kayaker was soon found by the Coast Guard about a mile north of the boat and a mile offshore.

His suit had either leaked or not been zipped completely, so it was full of water, and he was approaching hypothermic shock, according to Brett Esser, Coast Guard boatswain’s mate second class. But the man was alive and conscious after what was probably an hour in the water, Esser said.

“If he didn’t have a dry suit and the life jacket, it would have been a different story,” he said.

The man was shown into a warming compartment onboard the vessel and once on shore taken to an ambulance for a trip to the hospital.

“Lucky he had somebody looking out for him,” Stoerzinger said.

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