Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Monday

June 30, 2014

UPDATE: 5 kayakers rescued during treacherous Manitou trek

GLEN ARBOR — A kayak voyage through the Manitou Passage turned treacherous for five teens after they grew tired in choppy Lake Michigan waters and had to be rescued.

"These five, they're lucky to be alive," said Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich.

The kayakers -- a New York woman, two Grand Rapids men, an Ada man, and a West Bloomfield man, all ages 18 and 19 -- set off Friday for a camping trip to South Manitou Island from Glen Haven. They stayed until Sunday when they ran out of food and decided to brave stiff winds back to the mainland.

Borkovich said the teens' kayaks ranged from 6 to 10 feet long and weren't suitable for an open water trek through the Manitou Passage, a stretch of water where slight winds shifts can cause big changes in surface conditions.

"It's beyond the point of being foolish," he said. "There are lot of professional mariners who have drowned in the last couple hundreds years in the Manitou Passage."

The teens pushed off Sunday about 2 p.m. and apparently decided to split up. Three chose to ride the winds south while the other two made a push for Glen Haven. Borkovich didn't have information as to which teens were in which group.

Borkovich said three Indiana men in a sail boat cruised past the group of three kayakers about 6 p.m. not far from the island. He said they managed to turn their 32-foot sail boat around in the rough waters and pluck them from the waves.

The sailors called Leelanau County authorities to report the rescue and that two kayakers remained missing somewhere between the island and Sleeping Bear Dunes. Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Levi Read said a rescue helicopter crew spotted the missing teens about 7 p.m.

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