Two men were pulled from the frigid waters of Casco Bay on Saturday afternoon near a capsized canoe.

Portland resident Jake Morrel said he was returning home from an early Mother’s Day celebration on Peaks Island with his wife and daughter when the Casco Bay Lines ferry he was riding broke off from its normal route and cut the engine.

At first, he thought the 2:45 p.m. ferry was having mechanical issues. But he soon realized the captain was finessing his way closer to two young men who were in the water just off of House Island. Before long, the two men, who Morrel estimated were in their late 20s, climbed up an aluminum ladder and safely boarded the ferry.

“I think they hadn’t been in the water long,” the 72-year-old Morrel said. “It was choppy out there. It wasn’t the weather to be canoeing.”

Morrel said two men walked off the ferry once it reached the Portland mainland and did not require any medical attention. They were not identified, and there was no formal Coast Guard investigation of the incident.

On Sunday, the water temperature was 47 degrees. At that temperature, someone without protective clothing can lose dexterity in under five minutes and lose consciousness in 30-60 minutes, according to the University of Sea Kayaking, which recommends wearing a drysuit and fleece when boating in waters of this temperature.


Casco Bay Lines Operations Manager Nicholas Mavodones, who is also a city councilor, said the Wabanaki had about 207 people aboard when a crew member spotted the men in the water near a capsized canoe. He said water rescues are rare, but it’s something his ferry crews regularly train for.

“Our crews drill a lot for these kinds of situations,” Mavodones said. “They were quickly and calmly able to get these guys out of the water.”

“Luckily they had life jackets on,” he added.

The incident was reported to the Coast Guard, but did not warrant a formal investigation since it did not involve a commercial vessel, according to Chris Berry, a USCG operations unit controller.

“It was all over before we really heard about it,” Berry said. “We’re just glad everyone is OK.”

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