Sailboat capsizes during rough water conditions near Marco Island

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

A married couple were setting sail to follow their dream when they ran into trouble by Sand Dollar Island near Marco Island overnight. A rescue tow boat responded to help them out, and things went from bad to worse when both boats capsized.

The 42-foot, $250,000 sailboat was stuck about a mile out in the water and ended up on its side with a hole in it on Marco Wednesday.

Paul van Gils and his wife, Claudia, were ready to set sail around the country, but they’ve lost almost everything at this point.

“Finally got the boat, cashed in our savings,” van Gils said. “That’s all of our personal belongings. That’s everything.”

The couple won’t go on the dream trip they planned after their sailboat lost steering near Big Marco Pass.

“The weather was a little bit rough,” van Gils said.

Van Gils, an experienced sailor, wasn’t prepared for what came next.

“Our steering cable snapped on the boat, so the boat is out of control now in a very narrow dangerous channel,” van Gils said.

Around midnight, van Gils secured the boat on a nearby island. When a tow boat arrived to rescue the couple, things took a tragic turn.

“Once they tied on to tow the boat, cleats started ripping off, the anchor, windless, ripped off, the front of the boat damaged, wood splintering everywhere,” van Gils said.

The small tow boat capsized during the rescue.

“I had to now rescue them, so I had to lower my own inflatable boat in unbelievable conditions, cutting lines because you couldn’t untie them,” van Gils said.

The Marco Island Police Department is jointly investigating with the U.S. Coast Guard what happened with the sailboat and the tow boat.

According the City of Marco Island, it is anticipated the tow boat will be removed from the beach on or about Thursday, Dec. 10, based on weather and sea conditions. MIPD is working with owners of sailboat to secure it and remove it as soon as possible.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was notified because of the section of the beach that is part of a 456-acre critical wildlife area. At the present time, there is no evidence of environmental impact.

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