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Boat aground on Maxwelton Beach

"Eldon Baker (left) and Jimmy Berto push the Fire District 3 rescue boat out of tidelands in the Maxwelton Beach area after rescuing Dana Haley and daughters Brianna and Stacie (center) from their stranded boat. Richard Haley (on sailboat) chose to stay aboard and wait for high tide.Matt Johnson / staff photoA boater who momentarily took his attention off his tiller to answer a cell phone call wound up stranded in South Whidbey tideflats Saturday afternoon, then had to have his family rescued by fire district volunteers.Richard Haley of Port Townsend was sailing his 24-foot boat, the Raven, south of Maxwelton Beach around noon Saturday when he received a cellular phone call from his brother. As he spoke on the phone, a sudden gust blew his boat into 4-foot-deep water about 150 feet from shore. The boat's keel stuck in the sand, stranding the boat. By 12:30 p.m., water rescue personnel from Fire District 3 were launching a rescue boat from Possession Point Park after receiving a request for help from the Haley through the U.S. Coast Guard.Darin Reid, chief of FD3's Special Services division, established phone contact with Haley as the rescue boat hit the water. Though Haley thought his boat was stuck at the southernmost tip of Whidbey Island, rescuers found the Raven near Maxwelton Beach, just out of sight of the homes in that area.In his phone call, Haley said his boat was leaning and was within an inch of taking on water. When the rescue boat reached the Raven, rescuers found Haley and his wife, Dana, straddling the boat's port gunwale to prevent it from tipping over in the three feet of receding tidal waters. The couple's two daughters, Stacie and Brianna, were below deck to stay out of the wind.As the FD 3 crew approached the boat, it became clear that no lives were in danger. However, Dana Haley was clearly ready to leave the stranded vessel.I want to go home, she said. Volunteers Eldon Baker, Jimmy Berto and Logan McInerney loaded Dana Haley and her two daughters aboard the rescue craft to transport them to Maxwelton Beach. Richard Haley chose to stay with the boat to wait the 10-12 hours it would take for a high tide to lift the craft out of the tidelands. Haley said he and his wife had owned the boat for only two weeks. They were on their first long trip, a sail from Port Townsend to Seattle.Dana Haley said she had been worried about going aground several minutes before her husband was distracted by his phone call. She said the Raven was sailing inside a row of buoys that are intended to warn boaters away from shallow water. Eldon Baker told Haley that she and her family were lucky to come aground where they did. Had they sailed another few hundred yards, the boat would have foundered on a number of large rocks.Richard Haley did try to free his boat after it hit the sand. He told the FD 3 rescuers that he started his engine to pull the boat out. The engine's torque succeeded only in turning the boat 180 degrees before it stuck fast.The remainder of the Daley family was unhurt in the incident. They took an Island Transit bus to the Keystone ferry dock, then sailed aboard the one boat that could get them home. "

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