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Saturday, November 18, 2006

A lucky fisherman

This news yesterday in The Post and Courier's Charleston.net, reported by Nadine Parks, is what we always wished the result of a rescue effort can be: a happy ending!

Mount Pleasant - Garrett Winesett decided to ride out Thursday's early morning storm at sea. His fishing vessel spent the rest of the day limping back to shore.

Winesett, 39, of Murrells Inlet, said he heard the Coast Guard's radio warnings on Wednesday about high seas and strong winds. But the commercial snapper fisherman needed a bigger catch, so he dropped anchor about 50 miles southeast of Charleston and hunkered down for the night, he said.

Waves of 12 to 14 feet and winds between 23 and 46 mph pounded at Winesett's boat dubbed the Joe Green, but it held its own until about 3 a.m. Thursday, he said.

Suddenly, a freak wave about 18 feet tall crashed over the bow, smashing out the windows of the cabin and knocking out the navigational system, although not the VHF radio, Winesett said.

He knew, essentially, where he was, but he couldn't give the Coast Guard coordinates.

Coast Guard officials said it wasn't long before the Joe Green starting taking on water as waves tumbled over the sides of the boat. But its bilge pumps were not functioning.

Rescue workers launched a Coast Guard helicopter, which located the troubled vessel at about 5 a.m. and lowered Winesett a pump to control the flooding, officials said. Once the Joe Green was stable, the Coast Guard cutter Yellowfin met up with Winesett for a painstakingly slow voyage back to shore on a choppy sea, said Coast Guard Lt. Morgan Roper.

A wet, cold and exhausted Winesett pulled into a dock at Shem Creek Seafood at about 4:30 p.m. When his feet hit the ground, he said all he wanted was a beer.

Roper said Winesett's experience could have turned deadly if help had not arrived. The boat captain said he never once considered abandoning ship.

"It could have been devastating. But I had to sink before I was getting off of it," Winesett said. "I'd do it again, because that's what I do for a living."

Thanks to the timely and painstaking Coast Guard rescue, an encounter with freaque waves at sea by Mr. Winesett ended with relish. He is certainly one lucky fisherman indeed!

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