A 20-year-old man who disappeared with his father on a sailboat trip was found alive in the vessel five days later and 130 miles from shore, but the search for the father was called off.
After his rescue Thursday, Asher Woods told authorities his father, Stephen, had been swept overboard without a life vest early in the journey.
“He’s obviously shaken,” said Thomas Gage, Stephen Woods’ law partner. “He’s with his family. He’s in — I think I can say — good physical shape. But this is an unimaginable circumstance for any of us and for a young man of 20 years old, I’d have to say he’s incredibly brave.”
The boat usually was stocked with life jackets and foul weather gear, but that equipment was missing and may have been stolen before the men set sail Oct. 15 from Rockland, Maine, Gage said.
The Stratham men had been sailing the 41-foot, two-masted Niobi from its warm-weather home in Rockland to its winter quarters 120 miles away in Rye, N.H. They had been expected to arrive by Monday.
Marine weather data for the area last Saturday showed seas of 4 to 5 feet with winds gusting to 29 mph.
Stephen Woods, 55, “was a very skilled sailor and had plied that route many times,” Gage told reporters at the law office in Exeter. Asher Woods, however, was not experienced and couldn’t get the sailboat’s communications equipment to work, he said.
“The batteries went low,” Gage said. “He simply wasn’t able to make effective use of it.”
A Coast Guard jet Thursday saw two flares and alerted a fishing boat captain, John Doran, who found the Niobi 130 miles east of Cape Cod.
‘I couldn't get him,’ son says
When he approached the Niobi, Asher Woods jumped out and started swimming to the fishing vessel, according to the captain’s wife, Joyce Doran.
“Asher Woods kept saying, ‘I couldn’t get him. I couldn’t get him,”’ Joyce Doran said, recounting her husband’s tale in the Portsmouth Herald.
The Coast Guard sent a helicopter to fetch Woods from the fishing boat, and he was later taken to Falmouth Hospital. Witnesses there said he and his mother, former state Rep. Deborah Woods, left the hospital without speaking to reporters.
The Coast Guard planned no investigation.
“It is what it is, as unfortunate as it is. He fell overboard, and luckily we were able to get his son back to shore safely,” spokesman Luke Pinneo told the Boston Globe.
The family was planning a funeral for Stephen Woods, a former Stratham selectman. A woman who answered the door at the family’s home said they didn’t want to be interviewed.