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Boating incident highlights need for help in RC

July 14, 2011
Erika Fifelski - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ROGERS CITY - The Rogers City Harbor Advisory Committee still is exploring ways to bring trained Coast Guard members to the waters of the Presque Isle County shoreline. An incident on the water shows there is a need, though the community stepped up to handle it.

A capsized sailboat about one mile off shore in Hammond Bay left five people stranded. The incident was called in at 3:50 p.m. Tuesday by local resident Frank Zezulka. Undersheriff Joe Brewbaker said Zezulka saw two men sitting on top of the sailboat that flipped over due to a rough gust of wind. The boat belongs to Mark James Hoban, 38. Also on board were Daniel, Fern, Christopher and Emily Sullivan.

"They were all fine. The Coast Guard did show up within an hour," Brewbaker said.

The Coast Guard was from the St. Ignace post.

Those stranded were brought to shore by locals on row boats and wave runners. The Presque Isle County Sheriff's Department was also on scene to assist.

"As of yesterday, the boat is still upside down in the water. The owner is going to get a salvage company to get it taken care of," Brewbaker said.

Harbor Master Roger Wenzel is looking into funding options that would pay for training and equipment in an effort to keep the Rogers City marina and boaters more safe.

"We're trying to get people trained. The mayor is working on talking to other counties, the sheriff's department, and will go to the commissioners to see if we can get something," Wenzel said.

County Commissioner Bob Schell said the commissioners have not discussed the matter as of yet, but homeland security as well as boater safety is a priority.

"We have 70 miles of unprotected coastline. That's an open border, and we are a little concerned that it would be easy to infiltrate," he said.

But in the midst of a statewide budget crisis, commissioners are unable to provide funds for the operation at this time, Schell said.

"We don't have the money or the personnel to operate it," he said.

Wenzel is not giving up hope. His goal is to have people trained and ready should an emergency off the shore of Rogers City arise.

"We'll see if we can get something going, safety officers or marine control to make sure we have first responders on the lake. That's still on the burner. It might be on low, but we're still hoping," he said.

Despite the accident, Wenzel said boating season is clearly under way, and boaters are enjoying the waters off Presque Isle County, especially after the Doublehanded Sailboat Race came through Rogers City. Some boaters in the race recommended the Rogers City Harbor to friends, which increased traffic, Wenzel said.

"It ended up being a real boost. Now we're getting boaters," he said.

The water level is up one inch from last year at this time, making the area better for sailboaters with large boats.

"We have plenty of water to get boats in and out now. Even the bigger sailboats can get in or out without hitting bottom," Wenzel said.

In other business:

Erika Fifelski can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5688.



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