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Dog Overboard: Ocean Institute Crew Takes Action

Ocean Institute crew helps rescue dog in Dana Point harbor.

It’s all in a day’s work at the Ocean Institute.  Everyone likes a story with a great ending. I know I do, especially when it involves a deaf dog that needs rescuing from a precarious situation in very cold water—58 degrees.

I’m happy to say no one was hurt during the rescue operation on Wednesday morning when 1-year-old Duke, a 65-pound Boxer, took a misstep that landed him in hot water—so to speak. Thanks to screams and yells for help by Duke’s owner, three Ocean Institute staff put their training into action at the Dana Point harbor.

It just happens the three staff members are among the crew of the Ocean Institute tallship Spirit of Dana Point. Carly Rocha, Mary Elizabeth Portwood and Eric Martel jumped into a 14-foot dinghy and motored about 100 feet away to aid Meredith McKenzie. McKenzie was hanging half-on and half-off her sailboat, holding on to Duke by the collar and chest to keep his head above water.

Rocha and Portwood untangled Duke, who was partially caught in some lines when he fell trying to get on his owners’ boat.

Martel said, “We are used to rescues because we regularly do 'Man Overboard' training for our ships at the Ocean Institute.”

Even the Ocean Institute Program Director of Maritime Karin Vardaman rowed out in a 14-foot longboat to check on the dog’s health.   

Duke’s owners, Randy and Meredith McKenzie, had only purchased the boat around Christmas. The incident interrupted an outing to buy Duke’s life vest and take him for a walk. The McKenzies will complete Duke’s training by giving him lessons on using the boat’s swim steps. By the way, Duke recognizes sign language. 

Duke is a lucky dog. His owner hung on to him for dear life for at least 10 minutes before help arrived. The luck continued with the good fortune of experienced Ocean Institute staff at hand.

Actually, the only “casualty” was Meredith’s front crown that was knocked out and now is at the bottom of Dana Point harbor.

When the rescue was over, Rocha went back to work at the Ocean Institute’s Kids’ Conference on Watershed. Portwood went back to another teaching program in progress at the Institute and Martel went back to work on the Spirit of Dana Point.

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