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Couple pulled from water at Freeland after canoe capsizes

An Anacortes couple were cold and wet but otherwise apparently uninjured after spending an hour in chilly Holmes Harbor on Saturday afternoon after their canoe capsized.

The man and wife, believed to be in their late 40s, clung to the side of the overturned canoe until being rescued by an Island County Sheriff’s Office’s marine rescue crew.

Sgt. Rick Norrie of the Sheriff’s Office said the watery incident occurred about 1:30 p.m. about 300 yards offshore from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland.

Norrie said the couple, both wearing life vests, had launched the 16-foot canoe at the Nichols Brothers boat ramp and had paddled out to their sailboat, which was anchored offshore in choppy water.

When the wife attempted to climb aboard the sailboat, the canoe pushed away from the larger vessel and the wife tumbled into the water, Norrie said.

When her husband tried to help her back into the canoe, the canoe rolled over, tossing him into the water as well, Norrie said.

He said the couple were eventually spotted by someone onshore, who called 911.

Norrie said rescue from the shore was all but impossible at the time, because of an extreme low tide that made launching a boat difficult.

The sheriff’s marine unit and its three-man crew headed by Norrie were on the east side of Whidbey Island, about six miles away, when the call came in, Norrie said.

He said the rescue boat arrived at the scene in about 15 minutes, and pulled the couple out of the 40- to 45-degree water.

Norrie said shivering and other early indications of hypothermia were evident. He said a visit to Whidbey General Hospital to be checked out was recommended, but it was not known if the couple made the trip.

“All in all, they were in good spirits,” he said. “They were a little wet, a little waterlogged, a little cold, but they did pretty good.”

Norrie said the life vests may have helped save their lives.

“We’re really glad to see people make good choices,” he said. “People don’t realize how cold that water is out there.”

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