Florida couple caught off guard on Great Salt Lake

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 13 2014 5:45 p.m. MDT

Utah State Parks officials recover a sailboat that was stranded Tuesday night after a storm moved in quickly and prevented the boat from returning to the marina at the Great Salt Lake State Park, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.

Michelle Tessier, Deseret News

GREAT SALT LAKE — A couple’s first trip to the Great Salt Lake quickly turned into a nightmare.

They ended abandoning their boat in 3 feet of water behind a sandbar after a storm moved in Tuesday night.

Cyanna Mitchell and Tanner Czipri wanted to take a boating trip before returning to Florida.

“It was a really calm day, really beautiful,” Mitchell said.

But the weather quickly changed.

“We see it coming,” Czipri said. “It’s like a shelf, and we’re on our way back. We’re coming around the bend. … We tried turning, and all of a sudden the gusts started getting probably 50 mph. (It) totally made the boat almost capsize.”

The winds blew them into a sandbar.

“We were stuck out there for I don’t know how long,” Mitchell said.

The storm also brought a lot of rain. They called Utah State Parks for help. They were able to step out and walk safely to shore.

Wednesday morning, a group of search and rescue volunteers went out to see just how bad it was. Rescue crews had to turn the boat on its side and pull it across the sandbar. With some lines attached, they were able to pull it out and tow it away within 45 minutes.

Great Salt Lake marina harbormaster Dave Shearer said boaters need to plan ahead and take warnings seriously. There were storm warning flags up, and the weather stations were forecasting heavy storms, he said.

"I thought he was not using very good judgment or paying attention to the weather forecast — or even the sky,” Shearer said. “The sky was pretty black at that time. It was pretty evident that we had a storm coming in.”

He said they can’t stop someone from going out.

“It’s still user’s discretion. We can’t tell them they can’t go out. We just do the best to educate them and say, ‘The conditions are going to be pretty tough today and likely very tough,’” Shearer said.

He said he hopes this rescue will help urge others to be cautious.

“The Great Salt Lake, it’s not really a lake. It’s an inland sea. When it decides to pick up, it can be very violent,” Shearer said. “In a storm like that out on Great Salt Lake, it can be very dangerous.”

His advice? Pay attention to the weather forecast in the morning and the weather when you see it out there.

“If it looks like we’re going get any kind of weather disturbance, it’s probably better not to go out on the lake," Shearer said.

And, of course, wear a life jacket. Eighty percent of people who die on U.S. waters weren’t wearing life jackets, Shearer said.

Lucky for this couple, their boat was the only thing left stranded.

“There were pretty big waves when they had to get off the boat. They were pretty scary,” Shearer said. “They’re OK. It’s never a good feeling to have to abandon your boat, but luckily they were already on the beach."

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

Email: manderson@deseretnews.com

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