Just before 1 p.m. on Thursday, a sailboat captain not wearing a lifejacket fell overboard near the Savinov Shallows just northeast of the Western Estonian island of Vormsi. The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) relaunched search efforts on Friday after failing to find the man on Thursday.
An emergency call was placed at approximately 12:50 p.m. regarding an Estonian sailboat en route from Dirham to Haapsalu from which a 32-year-old man fell overboard and could not be found. The call was placed by another man aboard the sailboat, aged 28. Both men are Estonian citizens.
"He told Sea Rescue that he saw the fall out of the corner of his eye, could not see the man in the water, and was attempting to drop the sail," said Marge Kohtla, head of the PPA's Maritime Safety Unit. "He also said that the man to fall overboard, who was also captain of the sailboat, was not wearing a lifejacket."
According to Kohtla, the caller was unable to indicate the exact coordinates of the vessel at the time.
"Thankfully we were able to determine the location of the sailboat using radar as well as mobile positioning," she added.
The PPA's Kindral Kurvits, which was located nearby and had been aware of the sailboat in the area, was the first to respond to the call and begin search operations.
"At approximately 1:19 p.m., Kärdla sea rescuers arrived at the scene aboard the motorboat Kessu, and a helicopter began searching the area at around 1:30 p.m. as well," Kohtla said.
According to the PPA official, search efforts in the area continued through evening, but active search efforts were called off at around 7 p.m. She added that it was unfortunately unlikely anymore that the man would be found alive.
"While it is summer, water temperatures in the area are approximately 15-16 degrees Celsius right now, and in such waters, someone is only likely to survive for about an hour in the water," she explained.
While it isn't required, Kohtla recommends always wearing a lifejacket when going out to sea. "It also makes it much easier to search for the person if they fall overboard, because the brightly-colored vest is highly visible," she added.
While at sea, she continued, it is important to constantly keep watch and, among other things, keep track of the vessel's location. "Knowing one's location at sea is critical in an emergency situation so that help can come as quickly as possible," Kohtla said. "In addition to the captain, there should always be at least one other passenger aboard the vessel who knows how to pilot the watercraft, navigate and knows general safety skills."
Police officers helped anchor the boat and later tow it to harbor in Haapsalu at around 5 p.m. The man to place the emergency call did not need medical attention.
At the time of the incident, visibility at sea was good, with fairly strong winds out of the west and wave heights of approximately 1.5 meters.
Search efforts remain underway involving the Kindral Kurvits and a PPA aircraft.
Editor: Aili Vahtla