Solo MOB situation
The rescue in southeast highlights a couple things that I think would have helped him to be rescued quicker and in better physical shape.
# 1 - Keep at least a minimum amount of critical survival gear in your pocket or on your belt at all times even if just our for short cruise on the boat, four wheeler, snow machine, hiking, skiing, flying, etc...
Knife (or multi-tool)
Some kind of signaling device (whistle, mirror, light, etc)
My leatherman, a butane lighter, and small pocket kit (spark lite fire starter and tinder, photon flashlight, signal mirror, and a few other goodies) are always in my pocket if I'm on a boat, small plane, or otherwise heading out even for a short jaunt. Often I wear a small fanny pack with some first aid supplies, small flares, whistle, compass, power bar, space bag (not blanket) and a few other things, but at a minimum I have the leatherman, lighter, and pocket kit.
Oh and # 2 - Don't wear cotton!
He was smart enough to be wearing his float coat, which probably saved his life not just in the water, but once he landed too...I was glad to hear he was safe and sound. No doubt he was in a survival situation and I think he made it through on sheer will - would be nice to not have to suffer so much though, especially when a tiny bit of prep and practice could have done it.
The boating forum probably could discuss this topic from a different angle - my guess is there is some self rescue technology available (what would have happened if he wasn't anywhere near shore?) - probably some smart things to do like some short rope over the side or something for a way to get back in, assuming you can reach the boat. His was under power and it sounds like he couldn't reach it - that brings up the obvious idea of technological solutions which I'm sure are out there perhaps in the form of a wrist band with an RFID tag that talks to a controller on the boat - if you get out of a certain distance from the boat it kills the motor or something. Perhaps even a kind of simple dead man swith - red button on the dash flashes every 15 minutes - if you don't push it to reset the coutndown it kills the motor. I'm sure there are solutions like this out there - hopefully there simple and inexensive and get some attention. The accident seems like it could happen easily on the pitching deck of a boat.
I didn't mention the obvious safety things like don't have oil slicks (or banana peels for that matter!) on the deck and the buddy system...two people on board would have made this a funny story instead of rescue with a happy ending.
Good points all! You've highlited the major concerns and offered solutions. Capsizing and falls overboard are 16% of all recreational boating accidents and 70% of all fatal accidents! Overboard in Alaska waters is very much like stacking marbles on the freeway or swimming with alligators - very risky! Interestingly, we've managed to go farther into the calendar year in 2007 without a fatality than ever before; I am saddened to report that one person was found dead in Harding Lake this holiday weekend and two more are missing....you guessed it; capsized or fallen overboard.
Did you ever consider how you can get back aboard if you inadvertantly fall overboard? Most people don't.... Do you always wear a PFD in a small boat? A lot of folks do not.... So, imagine a scenario where you are pitched overboard (this happens quickly, as you can imagine!) without a means to board or maintain positive bouyancy....people in those situations don't last very long, unfortunately....only "fortune" has almost nothing to do with it. Neither does luck. It's all about preparation and good decisions...most of us cannot get past the concept of "it always happens to the other guy..." and, we simply don't believe it can happen to us. If we are skilled and prepared, we live. If not, we often die; at a rate 7 times the national average.
I know the guy in the situation you described. I was personally involved in the search and I must say, my confidence that he would be found alive was not very high that first evening. Did he make bad choices? We can certainly surmise that, but he knows for sure what went wrong....and what he can do different next time to avoid the same life-threatening experience. Boat safely! Mike