A Boston whaler was left circling aimlessly in the Somes Sound on Tuesday morning after its operator was ejected. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

A man out for a boat ride off Mount Desert Island Tuesday morning fell overboard and watched for nearly an hour as his unmanned boat spun in a circle, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The man, whose name was not released, was not injured in the incident but was not wearing a life jacket when he fell overboard around 7:50 a.m., according to Coast Guard spokeswoman Chellsey Phillips. She said a Good Samaritan in another boat nearby helped rescue the man soon after he fell into Somes Sound.

“This could have turned bad really quickly,” Phillips said.

In addition to Coast Guard personnel, who responded in a 47-foot vessel from their station in Southwest Harbor, the Mount Desert harbormaster and state Marine Patrol participated in the rescue effort. After nearly an hour, they were able to jam the propellor on the circling Boston Whaler with a mooring line, which brought it to a stop, according to Phillips.

She said the Coast Guard is not sure how the man fell overboard or what the purpose of his trip was. She said that he was able to drive the boat to a nearby harbor without difficulty after responders regained control of it.

Phillips said the incident highlights why boaters should take safety precautions whenever they go out on the water. The man should have been wearing a life jacket, she said, and a kill switch would have prevented the boat from continuing to run after he fell out.

A kill switch is usually a cord of some type that is connected the boat operator, she said. If the operator falls overboard or otherwise out of reach of the controls, the cord can be yanked out of the dashboard, killing the engine.

“The Coast Guard emphasizes the importance of wearing a life jacket whenever operating on the water,” agency officials wrote in the release. “Anything can happen at any time. Having a kill switch or means to immediately stop your vessel will help ensure your time on the water is safe and enjoyable.”

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....