A pilot spent Friday afternoon spotting tuna for a fishing boat off the coast of Gloucester.
Bu as he headed home, the engine of his small red plane sputtered and stopped, 12 miles from shore.
The pilot radioed the fishing vessel Christina, for which he was spotting. He said he was going down and going to ditch the plane, 5:15 p.m. Friday.
The vessel, part of National Geographic's "Wicked Tuna" series steamed toward the pilot's location, contacted the Coast Guard, and a Coast Guard lifeboat sped toward the plane as well.
Monday, Jeff Quinn, Boatswain Second Class with the U.S. Coast Guard at Station Gloucester, said that calm weather, a flight plan and a life raft brought him home without a scratch.
"He wasn't even wet," Quinn, who captained the life boat, said of the pilot whose plane went down off Gloucester's shores. "I was relieved when I saw the life raft and the plane. He was waving when we got out there."
Station Gloucester declined to release pilot's name Monday.
The plane came down in 70 degree weather, said Quinn, adding that, more than crashing, the pilot came down and landed on the water, skipping about three times before the plane's life raft inflated.
The pilot stepped out the door and onto the raft, waiting there for about 45 minutes until a jet from Coast Guard Station Boston spotted him, the plane, and the raft. The Coast Guard and the Christina arrived around 6 p.m.
Quinn said the pilot was spotting tuna for the Christina, a fishing vessel owned and captained out of Gloucester by Kevin Leonewort of "Wicked Tuna" fame. The 35-foot boat, said Quinn, was heading back in from Stellwagen Bank, and the plane was on its way home to Beverly Airport.
Boats like the Christina, Quinn said, often hire planes to find tuna that sun themselves close to the surface. It's usually done by boats that fish by harpoon, he added.
Quinn said the pilot knew he had mechanical troubles when the engine shut off. The plane's from 1941, said Quinn. The pilot bought it this year and it sank about 25 minutes after the Christina found him.
He radioed the Christina as the plane's engine failed and the Christina called in the Coast Guard, Quinn said. Leonewort's boat reached him first and the Guard arrived about two minutes later.
Such crashes and rescues are rare. Coast Guard spokesman Ross Ruddell said. The pilot, he said, had a flight plan when he went out, so people knew when to look for him when his plane went down. The Coast Guard, he said doesn't think the crash was anything but an accident. It was a remarkable rescue, he added.
"He refused medical attention," Buddell said, "and drove himself home."
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.