A Canton family was rescued Sunday after their 48-year-old boat took on water and sank at Marion Reservoir.
John and Lynn Rowden were boating with their two daughters, ages 14 and 12, when the 14-foot fiberglass boat foundered near Cottonwood Point.
“He said the boat just started taking on water,” sheriff’s deputy Mike Ottensmeier said. “The nose kept going higher and higher and before he knew it, it was taking on water in the back and coming through the holes and that was it. It had a manual bilge pump, and he wasn’t able to keep up.”
The family, all of whom were wearing life vests, abandoned the sinking vessel for a towable “floatie,” Ottesnmeier said.
A jet skier picked up the 14-year-old, and a parks and wildlife department boat picked up the rest of the family.
“The lake is still high right now, so I asked them, ‘Were your feet touching anything?’” Ottensmeier said. “He said, ‘No, we couldn’t feel anything,’ so they were floating.”
Corps of Engineers lead ranger Melissa Bean said it was fortunate the family was wearing life jackets.
“They are probably what prevented any kind of fatality,” she said.
A dog, which appeared to be a German shepherd, also was on the boat and was rescued. Neither Ottensmeier nor Bean knew what the dog did to stay afloat.
“The dog did not have a life jacket,” Bean said.
The boat remained on the lake bottom as of Tuesday, marked by the floating tube still tethered to it. The Rowdens can arrange to have it salvaged, Bean said, or the Corps will do it and bill them.
Bean declined to speculate on what caused the Rowdens’ boat to sink, but said the incident should serve as a reminder to exercise caution on the lake.
“Most of our boating accidents occur because people don’t know their limits,” Bean said. “Either they overload the boat or the boat isn’t in good enough repair to be in open water.”
While those younger than 21 must pass a boating safety course to operate a boat independently, Bean encouraged people of all ages to take the course, which is available in classroom and online formats.