Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

3 Men and a Dog Rescued from Capsized Boat in River; Mayport Sailors Spot Them; Grateful Humans Eager for Next Fishing Trip

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

3 Men and a Dog Rescued from Capsized Boat in River; Mayport Sailors Spot Them; Grateful Humans Eager for Next Fishing Trip

Article excerpt

Byline: William Browning

Sassy, a 4-year-old lap dog, spends most days indoors, relaxing on Ironwood Drive. She went on a fishing trip Wednesday, though, and the boat she was on capsized in the St. Johns River. Sassy ended up dog paddling for her life.

The Navy saved her.

About 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, near where the Trout and St. Johns rivers intersect, a 17-foot bass boat capsized and three men and the dog were thrown into choppy waters.

Mancell Boyd, 75, Don Weita, 74, and Larry Haller, 67, were fishing for sheepshead. The wake from a cabin cruiser knocked their Ranger 335V over, sending the Jacksonville retirees overboard.

When the boat flipped, Sassy, Boyd's Maltese, was trapped in an air pocket beneath the hull. While the three men clutched the side of the overturned vessel, Sassy began dog paddling.

Things stayed that way - the men waving for help at the occasional passing boat, Sassy dog paddling circles in the dark - for about half an hour in 60-degree water.

They didn't panic or do much screaming, Weita said, but instead focused on waving for help. If nothing else, they figured they would drift ashore.

Every now and then, Sassy would bark.

About noon, members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 6 from Mayport Naval Station passed through the area doing a routine training operation on a rigid-hulled inflatable boat.

Chief Petty Officer Jonah Toy had seen a few windsurfers earlier in the day. When he saw something strange glistening off the top of the water in the distance, he thought it was another surfer.

"I took that second hard look and it looked like flailing arms," he said.

The Navy men turned course, pulled alongside the overturned bass boat and helped Boyd, Weita and Haller aboard. In the confusion, Boyd said something about his dog. …

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