Retired Bruins star makes a save
Former Boston Bruins forward Jay Miller earned a reputation as a tough guy who could always be counted on in a tight spot. On Saturday, the retired professional hockey player turned Cape restaurateur made a great save.
Over the weekend, Mr. Miller participated in the John Havlicek Celebrity Fishing Tournament. The events include fishing, golf and tennis, all to raise money for The Genesis Fund, which supports efforts to treat and prevent birth defects.
By one account, over the past 25 years the tournament has raised more than $4 million for the John Havlicek Child Development Clinic at the National Birth Defects Center in Waltham.
Late Saturday afternoon, Mr. Miller was returning from a fishing trip off Nantucket on board his 38-foot Intrepid. The crew included his captain and a group of Exxon Mobil executives, major sponsors and supporters of the Genesis Fund.
The boat was about two and a half miles off State Beach, late and hustling back to Oak Bluffs Harbor, when one of the crew turned to Mr. Miller and said, "I see something white in the water, what is it?"
Mr. Miller slowed the boat and turned to investigate. "All of a sudden I saw a hand, almost like a wrist, just kind of flip out of the water," Mr. Miller said in a telephone call yesterday. "And I said, 'that's a body.'"
Mr. Miller turned the helm over to his captain and told him to hurry as he prepared to help pull the man from the water. Mr. Miller and his crew managed to pull Charles A. Samuelson of Cohasset onto the boat's swim platform and then into the boat. One of the men on board was an ex-EMT who administered first aid for hypothermia.
"We asked where his boat was and he pointed and said 'my boat's over there.' And we saw a sail about four miles away.'"
Mr. Miller said he never learned where the man was sailing from or even his name. The first priority, he said, was to get him to land as quickly as possible, in the event that he went into shock. "We put towels around him, and I literally just booted it," said Mr. Miller.
Mr. Samuelson, who was not wearing a life preserver when he was found, said he was in the water for approximately 30 minutes. Mr. Miller said his surprise passenger quickly recovered as they approached the harbor and said he did not want to go to the hospital.
Asked what Mr. Samuelson said when he stepped off the boat, Mr. Miller said he really did not know because he came in so quickly and was concentrating on not hitting the harbormaster's boat.
Mr. Miller said he is a frequent visitor and has many friends on the Island. He has participated in the Havilcek tournament for 21years.
The retired hockey player downplayed any notion that what he did was extraordinary. "It wasn't anything spectacular, it was just picking a guy out of the water," said Mr. Miller. "I happened to be the last one back. I'm not a hero. I was in the right spot, and so was he."
Todd Alexander, Oak Bluffs harbormaster, spoke to Mr. Samuelson following his rescue. Mr. Samuelson said he was sailing toward Edgartown and doing some work on the foredeck of his 42-foot Beneteau when he fell over the side.
He managed to grab hold of a line when he fell. Then he slipped back to an inflatable he was towing from the stern and held onto a line. He managed to get his boots and pants off intending to try and climb into the inflatable.
"He couldn't do that," said Mr. Alexander, "and by that point he let go."
He was some distance from shore and his boat, her autopilot in command, continued to sail away. Alone, suffering the effects of hypothermia and weakening by the moment, Mr. Samuelson was in dire straits. "The guy said he only had about ten minutes left, and he figured that was it," said Mr. Alexander.
Mr. Samuelson, by all accounts an experienced blue water sailor, could not be reached for comment.
The sailboat continued on its course until it arrived in the shallow water off Cape Poge Light on Chappaquiddick. Responding to an alert about Mr. Samuelson's unmanned sailboat, broadcast by Mr. Miller, Dan Carpenter of Tow Boat US Falmouth, a tow company that assists disabled boats, found the sailboat in four to five feet of water, its sails still up.
Mr. Carpenter brought in the sails and shut off the autopilot. The undamaged boat was returned to Mr. Samuelson, who was waiting in Oak Bluffs Harbor.
"So we did some good, not only raising money," said Dr. Murray Feingold, head of the Child Development Clinic. "We saved a life."
According to information on the Legends of Hockey web site, Wellesley native Jay Miller "was a hard-nosed left-winger who played more than 400 NHL games in the 1980s and '90s. He was a decent checker and could score the odd goal, but his main function was to take on the toughest customers on the opposition."
Mr. Miller spent nearly four years as the Boston Bruins' enforcer and helped the club reach the Stanley Cup final in 1988. In January 1989, he was sent to the L.A. Kings. He retired in 1992 and is now the owner of The Courtyard Restaurant in Cataumet.