FAIRHAVEN — When an experienced kayaker set off Monday night from Westport, little did he know he’d find himself stranded on an island Tuesday.
Robert Kaminski’s plan was to kayak from Gooseberry Neck Island in Westport to Cuttyhunk Island. However, a wave threw him from his 12-foot yellow kayak. He tried to stay with the kayak as long as possible, but the water was too rough.
The 48-year-old who was wearing a life jacket swam to Nashawena Island and fell asleep from exhaustion. When he awoke, he went to a home on the island, borrowed a cellphone and called the Westport police at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Kaminski, who’s from Worcester, told the dispatcher that he was OK, said Westport Detective Jeff Majewski. The dispatcher gave him the number for Coast Guard at Woods Hole. The dispatcher also alerted the Coast Guard, state police and Westport harbormaster.
Authorities began searching for Kaminski around 7:45 a.m., when an initial report came in from the Coast Guard about an overturned or abandoned kayak in the shipping channel outside New Bedford Harbor, said New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes.
Gomes launched the Buzzards Bay Task Force, a multi-agency collaboration of marine assets stretching from Dartmouth to Bourne, for the search.
The kayak was found with Kaminski's wallet and cellphone off Cuttyhunk, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class Nicole Groll. A lunch pail was also found about a mile away floating on the water.
"Kaminski did two very important things," said Petty Officer 1st Class Shannon Helly, a command duty officer for Sector Southeastern New England. "He wore his life jacket and called to let us know he was OK. We would like to remind paddlecraft users to label your kayak with your name and contact information, and have a reliable means of communication."
On the side of Kaminski's kayak are stickers, saying it is a Hobie Mirage Outback kayak. According to Hobie's website, the Mirage Outback, which comes in the color yellow, is 12 feet, 1 inch long and 33 inches in width, has a hull that is made of rotomolded polyethylene. It weighs 99 pounds when it is fully rigged.
The search was canceled at 10:05 a.m., according to Fairhaven Deputy Fire Chief Todd Correia said.
Kaminski was suffering from exhaustion and hypothermia and was transported by a Coast Guard helicopter to Barnstable Municipal Airport and then by ambulance to Cape Cod Hospital, Groll said.
"He was very disoriented," she said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Kaminski was being seen in the hospital's emergency room and could not be reached for comment, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
In addition to the Coast Guard, which deployed a 29-foot response boat crew from Coast Guard Station Menemsha and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew from Air Station Cape Cod, SouthCoast agencies who participated in the search were: New Bedford Fire Department, New Bedford Police Department, New Bedford Harbormaster, Fairhaven Fire Department, Fairhaven Harbormaster, Mattapoisett Fire Department and Harbormaster, Dartmouth Harbormaster and Dartmouth Fire District 1.
"It was a group effort," Gomes said of the contributions of the Buzzards Bay Task Force. "We have had search operations that did not have a happy ending. In this case, the kayak and personal effects were found (by the task force) and that increased the intensity of the search."
Follow Curt Brown on Twitter @CurtBrown_SCT.