Sheriff Mark Howie said Wednesday morning that Rosedale residents Dan and Genie Cary noticed the sails on the sailboat suddenly fell to the deck and that a man was in the water. They called sheriff's department at 9:19 p.m., and Undersheriff Steve Marshall and Deputy Sheriff Bill Tawater responded in the patrol boat.
The man in the water was wearing a camouflage colored life vest, and the officers couldn't spot him in the water.
"The Caries did an excellent job," Howie said. "They stayed on the line. Dan watched the man with binoculars, and Genie relayed his position."
The 70-year-old man, a resident of Shoreline, apparently tried to swim to the Little Island shoreline, for he was over a half mile from the boat when officers finally spotted him with the Caries' guidance, Howie said. The man was close enough to the shoreline that he was able to stand, but the bottom was mud and he wasn't able to walk.
The officers pulled him into their boat and took him to the Cathlamet Town Dock where an ambulance crew was waiting and treated the man for hypothermia, for he had been in the water over 30 minutes.
"The man was exhausted and could barely move," Howie said. "The vest saved him for sure."
The water was really choppy, Howie said, and the man reportedly was reaching over the gunwale for a line when a wave struck him and knocked him overboard.
Meanwhile, the 19-foot sailboat, with a husband and wife and their two children still aboard, had drifted onto some pilings on the Puget Island shoreline and was stuck there.
"They had no idea how to operate the boat," Howie said.
The patrol boat returned to the disabled sailboat and towed it to the Elochoman Slough Marina.