Rough seas, broken rudder send boat over

Lincolnville lobstermen rescue distressed sailor, right capsized catamaran

Sun, 09/13/2020 - 4:45pm

    LINCOLNVILLE BEACH — Quick action by Lincolnville lobsterman Nick Heal and his crew, Alex Bryant and Jared Gilbert, brought a lone sailor attempting to right his capsized catamaran back to safe harbor Sunday afternoon, Sept. 13.

    Gusty southwest winds blowing 15 to 20 knots proved too much for Brendan Browne’s small sport catamaran, which he had launched from Lincolnville Beach for an afternoon sail around 1 p.m. The late summer day was warm under the sun, but the wind carried a chill that created turbulence and colder seas.

    He had started out at the Beach, and before he could get fully organized, the wind caught his sail, and the catamaran was suddenly moving fast into open waters. 

    “A number of things went wrong really quickly,” said Browne, reflecting on the sequence of events that carried him from the shore to half a mile out in the water, toward Northport and the open bay.

    As the weather was building, and before he could get his weight established in the right place on the small catamaran, a tie rod broke between the rudders, and he lost his steering.

    “It took me a while to regain control of the boat,” he said. “I was moving right away and the rudder broke.”

    Unable to tack but knowing he needed to head back to the shore, he instead tried to jibe. That’s when the boat flipped, he said.

    Back at the Lincolnville dock, Martha Flint, of Rockport, was fishing with family and friends on the float. They saw the boat capsize and watched as Browne tried to right the boat, to no avail. 

    Flint noticed Heal on the dock, getting ready to load lobster bait onto the Kristin Marie. She ran up the ramp to get his attention. Heal serves on the Lincolnville Fire Department, and just about at that time, someone else had called the Waldo Regional Communication Center, in Belfast, which handles 911 calls for Waldo County.

    “Nick was very good, he went out with his two guys,” said Flint.

    Harbor Master Mike Hutchings was in Belfast and got the call from dispatch. He quickly drove the 12 miles to Lincolnville Beach while Lincolnville firefighters were likewise mustering, heading over to the dock at the Ducktrap condominiums. Marine and emergency response radios were crackling with updates, as the Coast Guard was alerted and the Midcoast emergency response systems fell into place.

    But Heal, already underway on the Kristin Marie with his crew, reached Browne in a matter of minutes.

    “They toned me out once I was out there,” said Heal. 

    The Kristin Marie found the catamaran on its side, with Browne in the water.

    “He was hanging off trying to upright it,” said Heal. “I tried to block the wind. That didn’t work. The tide was also bucking against the wind.”

    Then Heal extended a line around the catamaran’s bar.

    “I put a rope around it, tied it off and pulled it over,” he said.

    From there, Browne remained on the sailboat while Heal steered them all back to the harbor float, both vessels heaving and rolling in rough waters.

    Back at the dock, an ambulance crew with North East Mobile Health Services rendered aid to Browne, but he declined to warm up in the ambulance and instead stayed with his boat, sorting through what had happened.

    He had been in the ocean for some time, and was cold. After getting warm clothes on, he found Heal and his crew and thanked them all for coming to his aid.

    “I was glad we could help,” said Heal. “It worked out well, and we’re glad you are all right. Better sailing in the future!”

    Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at; 207-706-6657