Tisbury firefighters deployed the department’s fire rescue boat Wednesday evening for a report of swimmers in distress. Two Coast Guard vessels from Station Woods also deployed. The call came in at a little after 6 pm, Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Leland said. The call indicated swimmers were in Wilfred’s Pond, however firefighters discovered they had been swimming off an anchored boat out in Vineyard Sound.
One person, whom Chief Leland described as a strong swimmer, was able to make it back to the boat, but others were carried off by the current. Eventually he said they were able to “self-rescue,” swimming ashore many hundreds of yards further down the shoreline before firefighters reached them. They declined medical attention, Chief Leland said.
According to a police report by Tisbury Police Sgt. Jeff Day, the swimmers were about 200 yards out. “Upon arrival at the parking lot for the Land Bank property, I was met by five beachgoers,” a report states. “They told me that three men had jumped off a boat that was anchored 200 yards off shore in Vineyard Sound. None of them were wearing life preservers. The men appeared to have gotten caught up in the strong currents, and were being swept away from their boat. One of the men was able to swim back to the boat. He was out of the water when I arrived on the beach. He was too far from shore to communicate with effectively.”
Tisbury Police Officer Andrew Silvia and Deputy Fire Chief Patrick Rolston soon joined Day.
“Rolston ran down the beach toward the four people who were in the water,” the report states. “I observed four people in the water, approximately 600 yards away from the anchored boat. Two were free-swimming, and two were on top of a paddleboard.”
Day learned the two people on the paddleboard had paddled out from the beach to help the swimmers, and then one of the paddleboarders found themselves in distress too.
Day learned from one of the swimmers that the person who swam back to the boat had “no idea how to operate the boat or its radio.” The boat was from Oak Bluffs, and called Deep Blue.
“He told me that the three all jumped into the water because it looked like a calm place for a swim,” the report states. “Once they were in, they immediately realized that they had underestimated the strength of the current. I explained the importance of basic boating safety training for all boat passengers to the captain.”
The Coast Guard transported the man back onboard Deep Blue, the report states. The swimmers later departed in that boat.