Couple Saved by Fishing Charter After Boat Capsizes

Sudden storm left couple stranded

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Chicago SunTimes
    Rich Rogalski (left) and Nettie Kula, who has her arm around charter boat captain Jeff Sobotaka, are happy to be alive Sunday after their boat capsized in Lake Michigan. The rescue team included Brendan O'Connor (blue shirt) and Jerry O'Connor.

    Sunday was a day filled with bad luck and good luck for Nettie Kula and Rich Rogalski. The couple were cooling off with a relaxing day of fishing on Lake Michigan when a flash storm hit and capsized their boat.

    That was the unlucky part. The lucky part came about an hour later when the fishing boat Confusion, captained by Jeff Sobotaka, rescued the couple as they bobbed in the water about six miles off Belmont Harbor, the Sun-Times is reporting.

    "All I could think was, I hope they see us," said Kula, 46. "They weren't looking for us, so they could have easily passed on by, and we couldn't see any other boats nearby."

    It all happened so fast. The Brookfield couple were already headed in when the sudden storm thundered through about 12:30 p.m. Rain was coming down in buckets, and what started out as glass-like water quickly turned into crashing waves.

    "It was wicked for a while out there," said Rogalski, 47. "And very spooky. We were really getting flipped around."

    As the 18-foot aluminum craft began to take on water, Kula called 911 from her cell phone. The operator contacted the Coast Guard, but by that time the couple's GPS wasn't working, and without coordinates there was no way to pinpoint them.

    Sobotaka first thought he was seeing mylar balloons in the water, something he sees all the time.

    "Then I realized they were waving at us," Sobotaka said. "It was definitely a shock. You don't go out on the lake thinking you'll rescue someone."

    Brendan O'Connor and a group of family and friends had chartered the Confusion for a fishing trip. They had already set out for the day but came back in when the storm approached. It was on the second start that they found the couple, whose boat later was hauled in by authorities.

    "We're just glad we were able to help out and that they are OK," said O'Connor, 36.

    Rogalski says he has been fishing on the lake since he was 8 years old, and nothing like this has ever happened to him before.

    "I really did want to stay in bed today," Rogalski said, with a laugh. "I guess I should have."