4 Sailors in the Everglades Challenge Race Were Rescued (Video), 1 Paddler Died UPDATED

The tally of the Watertribe Everglades Challenge participants rescued on Saturday, March 3, 2018, keeps rising. Another man, Thad Rice, who was paddling, died early in the race. The latest two were rescued by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office using a boat and helicopter. Slow Boat Sailing previously identified two additional sailors who were rescued by 29-foot US Coast Guard boats. Wiley Parker and Weston Wilkins were rescued from the two-man sailboat by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. You can see the video of the sailors’ rescue below:

Here is the press release from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office:

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight is reminding residents and visitors to consider safe boating practices, following a weekend boating competition that led to a marine rescue.

Deputies were first alerted to a vessel and two boaters in distress Saturday afternoon around 4:45 p.m., when the U.S. Coast Guard received word of an activated PLB or “personal locator beacon” in the gulf. Air-1 immediately responded and located the capsized vessel and two sailors approximately two miles offshore near Turtle Beach. Marine deputies threw safety lines and pulled both men on board who were provided thermal blankets and later medically cleared by paramedics.

Sheriff Knight is using this opportunity to remind boaters that despite the seemingly warm weather, even brief exposure to gulf temperatures are low enough to produce hypothermia. Residents and visitors are encouraged to always bring safety equipment on board including life jackets and GPS-enabled beacons that can help first responders locate you if you are in distress. Finally, always complete a float plan before you leave so family or friends know where you will be and when you are expected to return.

“We are undoubtedly relieved these boaters survived gulf temperatures and made it to safety thanks to Air-1 and our Marine Unit,” said Sheriff Knight. “While safety is our top priority, so is education and it is critical when organizations create these competitions that they do their homework beforehand. Participants should be equipped with the tools they need to safely compete, weather conditions should be reviewed, and most importantly, organizations must communicate their plans to public safety agencies in advance.”

With four rescues on Saturday, it seems like the Sheriff thinks Watertribe has some explaining to do…

Here are some USCG photos of the other two rescues:




The Watertribe website warns participants in the waiver in red letters,”If you are not an expert paddler and/or sailor, do not enter this race. Even if you are a well prepared expert you may DIE – yes, you may DIE.”

That seems to have happened this time around. Steve Isaac, the founder of the race wrote on its forums, “I am sad to report the passing of BlueJay (aka Thad Rice).” Mr. Rice was padding an expedition kayak or canoe, according to the race results.  Also on that forum, Paula Martel wrote, “We learned today that Thaddeus died from a heart attack. Knowing that he had set up three methods of getting back into his boat, she [Mr. Rice’s wife] believes he was unconscious.”

5 thoughts on “4 Sailors in the Everglades Challenge Race Were Rescued (Video), 1 Paddler Died UPDATED”

  1. I’m curious, do you have evidence these boaters did not follow safe boating practices? The article seems to infer that somehow they, or the “Watertribe” were deficient.

    From the video, it appears the boaters had good gear & were wearing life jackets. They assisted with their own rescue, which was made easy by their use of a PLB. All they needed was a ride & a blanket. This speaks to good preparation.

    How many boaters in the Gulf could say as much after their boat has suddenly turned over?


      1. I seriously doubt that the sheriff has made himself aware of how much preparation goes into this event.

        From my point of view as one who has organized and run other sailing events, notifying the “authorities’ which might likely make you subservient to their wishes is the last thing I would do. Been there, done that and don’t do it anymore.

        How many fishermen die or are rescued in the Gulf every year? What kind of inspection and preparation is required of them by the “authorities” before they go out? How does that compare to the preparation of the Everglades Challenge entrants?

        People wish to participate in dangerous events and sports. How many skiers die in avalanches each year? How many runners die from heart attacks in marathons? Tennis players collapse and die on public courts. Swimmers drown in public pools and on beaches with lifeguards available. Rock climber fall and die.

        At what point do we turn our personal liberty over to the “authorities”? If they assume any responsibility, they will take the safe route and there will be only tiddly winks.

        Perhaps there may be too many entrants for the limited number of organizers to judge carefully enough but making such a judgement is not infallible. Witness that one of the rescued entrants is one of the most accomplished sailors in the country. Who is going to tell him that he can’t sail?


      2. If you believe in person responsibility, do you believe the rescued need to pay the costs of the rescue? The Watertribe has participants self-certify. No inspections are conducted according to the waiver. Should the skippers take personal responsibility for getting in over their heads? What does that mean in your opinion?


  2. If that is directed to me, this is one answer. People do foolish things every day that cause damage to themselves or to others. Driving too fast, swimming into a rip current, skiing in a known avalanche area, driving on ice when it is not safe to do so, etc, etc. Does that mean that they have a debt to or must make special payment to the fire trucks, first responders, police, Coast Guard, ambulances or any other rescue group that helps them?

    I don’t have an answer and no one else does either. Life can be complicated.


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