Boater Found; Father Lost At Sea

This undated family photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows Stephen Woods, 55, who is reported missing after he fell overboard Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005, about 13 miles off Boothbay Harbor, Maine. AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard

A 20-year-old man who disappeared with his father on a sailboat trip earlier this week was found alive and told his rescuers that his father was swept overboard.

Stephen Woods, 55, a lawyer, and his son, Asher Woods, had been missing since Monday morning. Stephen Woods was not wearing a life vest when he fell overboard about 13 miles off Boothbay Harbor, Maine, the Coast Guard said.

Asher Woods and the boat were found Thursday off Cape Cod, 130 miles east of Provincetown, Mass., said Thomas Gage, Stephen Woods' law partner in Exeter. But apparently, "attorney Woods was not found on the boat," Gage said. The Coast Guard called off its search for the father on Thursday.

The boat was seen in the Atlantic bobbing with sails down in a video released by the Coast Guard.

"We are still in the information-gathering stage," Petty Officer Luke Pinneo told the Portsmouth Herald. "They were pretty far out to sea. We are not sure how they got there."

Stephen Woods fell off the boat Saturday night, said Kelly Newlin, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard. She said a Coast Guard jet flying over the water saw two flares late Thursday morning.

"We're not exactly sure what happened," Newlin said.

"He was a very skilled sailor and had plied that route many times," Gage said of Woods and his planned trip from Rockland, Maine, to Rye. The boat was kept in Rockland during the warm weather and was being moved to Rye Harbor for the winter.

The National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said marine weather data for the area Saturday showed seas between 4 and 5 feet with winds gusting to 29 mph.

The Coast Guard said the crew of the jet that spotted the 41-foot, two-masted Niobi alerted a fishing boat, the Amy Philbrick out of Newington, N.H. Its captain, John Doran of Eliot, Maine, found the Niobi and telephoned his wife, Joyce Doran.

She recounted her husband telling her, "Asher watched his father being washed overboard," the Portsmouth Herald reported.

Her husband told her that when the Amy Philbrick approached Asher Woods in the Niobi, he jumped from the sailing boat and started swimming to the fishing vessel.

"Asher Woods kept saying, 'I couldn't get him. I couldn't get him,' " she said.

The Coast Guard sent a helicopter to get him off the fishing boat, using a rescue basket to lift him from the fishing boat to the chopper, reports TJ Winnick of CBS station WBZ-TV in Boston.

That meant "landing on a pitching, moving vessel, which always makes it rough and a little bit dangerous. But that's what these rescue swimmers train for everyday," said Coast Guard Chief Scott Carr.

Asher Woods was flown to the Cape Cod Air Station, Winnick says, then checked out by emergency room doctors at Falmouth Hospital in Massachusetts.

"He did have access to water and, in fact, even food, and fortunately enough for him, with that, his condition overall was maintained quite well, considering," said Dr. Bruce Stelle.

Asher Woods and his mother, Deborah, didn't comment to reporters when they left the hospital.

The father and son were believed to have left Rockland around noon Saturday and expected to arrive in Rye, N.H., 120 miles away, by Monday.

The Coast Guard said the boat had communications equipment, but it had been unable to reach the Woods.
  • Brian Dakss

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