Nantucket lifeguards receive recognition for hurricane saves

Several well-known island figures gathered at the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum for the Annual Lifesavers Recognition event presented by the Egan Maritime Institute, in partnership with the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, on September 11th, 2017.

This annual event honors those “who went above and beyond the call of duty” to save the life of another. This year they honored Captain Brian Borgeson and first mate Scott Riddle of the charter fishing boat the Absolute for the rescue of kayakers in distress of the coast of Wauwinet, and John McNally of the United States Coast Guard and Nate Woodason of the Nantucket Cottage Hospital.  The two were recognized for their lifesaving efforts when the Steamship Iyanough ran ashore this past summer, on June 16th. Nantucket Lifeguard Program was also honored for the rescues made on August 16th, 2017.  

August 16th is a day that most of the island lifeguards are unlikely to ever forget.  “It was the most beautiful day in August, but Hurricane Gert was kicking up some pretty big swell.  The waves were around 10-15 feet that day”, said nantucket lifeguard and Nantucket High School senior Katherine Pittman.  All of the south shore beaches were closed to swimmers that day, as the double red flags flew high above the stands, warning swimmers of the dangerous sea conditions.  

The guards were fully staffed and prepared for a tough day, even closing down some north shore beaches in order to have more guards working on the south shore. They went up and down the beaches, advising beachgoers to stay out of the water, but unfortunately, that didn’t stop everyone.

What most people will probably remember about that day is the loss of a 46 year old Massachusetts resident to these unforgiving waves, but what many do not acknowledge is the 27 successful rescues made by the nantucket lifeguards that day across all of the south shore beaches, from Cisco to Tom Nevers.

“We train before the season starts for days like these and just hope they never come”, said Pittman, who also credits the program’s success that day to the hard work put in by all of Nantucket’s first responders.  “It was all about teamwork, from the guards to the Community Service Officers to the Nantucket Police and Fire Departments.  Everyone worked together that day to keep our beaches safe.”

The award the Nantucket Lifeguard Program received at the Lifesavers Recognition event was well deserved, to say the least.  

“It was an honor to be recognized at that event, and good to be around others who have been through the same things we have,” commented Pittman. “Throughout the season we make rescues almost every day, so to be honored for all the work we put in, especially for those 27 rescues on that tough day, was really special.”

It was incredibly rewarding for the Nantucket Lifeguards to get the credit they deserve for the lives they saved, and such an event is a testament to all the efforts they have made each summer as well as on that challenging day.