Featured Story

Rescue at sea: Crew goes into bay off Shelter Island

ROBERT HARRIS PHOTO Yachts under sail Saturday during the rugged conditions for the 21st annual running of the Whitbread Race.
Yachts under sail Saturday during the rugged conditions for the 21st annual running of the Whitebread Race.

The wave hit hard and washed over Optimistic just off Ram Head and then the wind pushed the boat down. The 28-foot sailboat immediately began to take on water at the stern.

“I heard a hissing noise,” Michael Sadis said, as he and his three crew mates headed to the bow of  Optimistic. The hissing was the sound of part of Gardiners Bay flooding into the cockpit of the vessel.

It was about 11:15 a.m. Saturday, in the middle of the 21st annual Whitebread Race, with 92 boats in competition, sailing from Cutchogue harbor north around the west side of the Island and back.

Within three minutes Optimistic would be on the bottom of the bay and Mr. Sadis and his crew mates, all in life jackets, would be in the water, dropping up and down like yo-yos in the steep swells.

Owner and skipper Bill Archer had made a distress call just before Optimistic went under and the crew went into the bay.

Mr. Sadis and Mr. Archer, along with the other two-crew members, a man and a woman who requested that their names not be used, were experienced sailors and remained calm.

“It had everything except the violins from ‘Titanic,’” Mr. Sadis said.

The worst moment was to come. “I was worried about the rescue from other boats” in the heaving seas, Mr. Sadis said. “Getting hit or wrapped up in a lifeline.”

But the crew of the Sea Breeze, skippered by Mahlon Russell, was about 1,000 yards away and turned to rescue  three of Optimistic’s crew, without incident. Tidelines, skippered by Bob McIlvain, pulled Mr. Archer from the water.

They were taken to Greenport, shook up, cold, wet but not really the worse for wear when they got to Billy’s By the Bay restaurant.

Mr. Sadis wanted to extend warm thanks to the crew of the Sea Breeze, and especially the folks at Billy’s.

“They gave us a meal and a drink to take the chill away,” he said. “They were all great.”

A contractor based out of Huntington, this had been Mr. Sadis’s ninth Whitebread crewing for Mr. Archer. He had taken a few days off for a long weekend of first sailing, then golfing.

Sunday morning he said, “I’m going to be extra careful on the golf course.”