After hour in the Sound, sailor who fell overboard is safe

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08/03/2011 2:26 PM |

A 52-year-old man sailing by himself to Montauk fell out of his boat while it was anchored in the Sound off East Marion Tuesday night and drifted west for about an hour before residents heard his cries for help and used flashlights to direct him in to the beach, Southold Police said.

Lawrence Beirele of Ridge swam to shore on his own, needing no assistance or medical attention. After being checked by the East Marion Fire Department Rescue Squad he was brought to police headquarters to wait for a ride home and planned to return to his craft and continue his trip Wednesday.

“He’s a lucky man,” said Southold bay constable Don Dzenkowski of East Marion, whose wife, Peggylee, first heard Mr. Beirele’s calls for help. “He was drifting on an incoming tide. If it had been an outgoing tide he would have drifted east toward Plum Island and I don’t know if anybody could have heard him.”

Stopping for the night, Mr. Beirele anchored his 22-foot boat about 1,500 feet off Trumans Beach. He told police he was in his dinghy washing up when he fell overboard.

“He tried to swim back but couldn’t, so he decided to drift with the current,” said Mr. Dzenkowski.

Floating in the dark in a slight chop with virtually no visibility, Mr. Beirele called for help after spotting the street light at the end of Rocky Point Road, police said.

“He hollered at us and we hollered back,” said Mr. Dzenkowski, one of the residents helping to direct Mr. Beirele to shore.

“He had to be 500 to 800 feet out when our lights found him,” he said. “He came in swimming under his own power. He was in extraordinary shape.”