Local

Wife leads rescuers to capsized boat

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Three sailors were pulled from Lake Michigan Wednesday night when a fast moving storm swamps their boat off Montrose Harbor.

The wife of one of the men is credited with their rescue. She became worried when the men didn't return, so she went looking for them herself.

The three men are experienced sailors and are members of a local yacht club. They knew there was a chance of storms, but also knew to stay near shore. They took a gamble that with their experience they would be able to get in before any severe weather. But they were taken by surprise by the sudden, fierce winds.

The sailboat is back on land, as are the sailors who were on it Wednesday night, but not without a harrowing tale.

"In the blink of an eye we were over," said Daniel Tenuta.

As a severe storm popped up over Chicago Wednesday evening, Tenuta was sailing with two friends. They were in the water fighting to stay with the boat, but the sailboat flipped them at least eight times.

"Each time we went in it felt colder and colder and colder. Once we went in the water we had to scurry around with great effort to the other side of the boat so we could climb up on it and get away from the cold water," said Tenuta. "We're going to wait and wait and stay on the boat, because that's the rule. That's the major rule of saving your life."

The men had a savior: Mary Kovats.

Kovats is the rear commodore of the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club. The man sailing the vessel was her husband. When the weather turned, she called her husband and got their location. When he didn't answer a second time she went into action.

"Mary Kovats unquestionably saved our lives," said Tenuta.

Kovats' husband is recovering at Illinois Masonic Hospital, in part because she took a boat with two other club members, found the sailors and pulled them from the water.

Ambulances were waiting when they arrived.

"We made the wrong decision, very simple," Tenuta said. "But luckily, Mary had the wherewithal to keep in touch with us, and we didn't answer the phone, just got a boat and came and got us. We thank her for saving our lives."

Tenuta says the men knew to stay with the boat. But, after being tossed off the boat so many times, he did try to swim ashore. That's when he was picked up. He was wearing a life preserver.

Although it's been warm, the water temperature was only in the 50s. The men were in the water almost an hour.

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