On Saturday afternoon, while traveling on a Peter Pan bus en route to Boston, Edgartown harbormaster Charlie Blair quarterbacked the rescue of a kiteboarder in danger of being swept out past Chappaquiddick.
Acting on a tip from town administrator Pam Dolby, who spied a red kiteboarding kite scudding along off State Beach with nobody attached to it, Blair mustered deputy shellfish constables Warren Gaines and Petie Jackson to investigate. Gaines initially sent Jackson up Beach Road as far as Harthaven to look for a truck or van that might indicate a kiteboarder went into the water from the beach. Jackson found no such vehicle. Off Planting Field Way, Gaines spotted the kite with binoculars, roughly a quarter-mile offshore, but saw nobody in the water nearby. At Blair’s request, Gaines and Jackson piloted the harbor patrol boat out to the kite. Upon nearing it, they encountered a kayaker.
The kayaker was a 19- to 20-year-old male in a wetsuit with no lifejacket on, Gaines said. In a nine-foot kayak, he was in rough seas stirred by 20 to 25 mph west-by-northwest winds, Gaines said.
The kayaker was in obvious need of aid, so the constables took him aboard. Gaines and Jackson learned he had been kiteboarding, somehow spilled, paddled back to shore and returned with a kayak to retrieve his kite. The kite kept blowing beyond his reach, Gaines said. Gaines was unclear if he’d been kiteboarding with others, but was certain he’d kayaked solo. Gaines described the decision to head out alone in a small kayak without a lifejacket as not “the best idea” and “very risky.”
“I think he got tired,” Gaines said, reiterating that the kite kept sailing farther and farther out and that he kept paddling after it.
“The next stop for that guy was the Azores,” Blair said.
Blair, who had been in repeated cell phone communication with Gaines, and also within earshot of the entire bus he traveled in, said his fellow passengers erupted in cheers when the kayaking kiteboarder was rescued.
Gaines and Jackson dropped the kiteboarder off at Memorial Wharf, where his friends were waiting. Gaines never learned his name, he said. Nevertheless, he said, he believes the young man learned a lesson and regretted his decision to paddle out improperly equipped and by himself.