This Jacket and Jim McCoy Saved My Life

Fred Bodin post for Marsha (last name withheld)

This Jacket and Jim McCoy Saved My Life

On December 19th, 2012, Gloucester resident Marsha (last name withheld) walked out to the end of Dog Bar Breakwater on Eastern Point on a fairly calm day at low tide. On the return trip, a wave soaked her ankles, the next one her calfs, and the third wave was a wall of water which tossed her 30 feet into Gloucester Harbor. Marsha went under, but was buoyed to the surface by her goose-down waterproof parka (not a USCG certified PFD). She swam back to the breakwater, and used her rock climbing skills to get up onto the first ledge. That was about all she could do. Hypothermia was setting in. Miraculously, birder Jim McCoy spotted her, maneuvered her to the top of the Dog Bar, and into his car. He immediately drove her to Addison Gilbert Hospital for treatment. Marsha told me this incredible story, while wearing the jacket that saved her life.

The Jacket: This helped save Marsha’s life two months ago. No, I won’t tell you who made it, because it’s not a float coat USCG approved flotation device.

The Breakwater: This is what almost took Marsha’s life. A lobsterman told her that that a storm from 3 or 4 days ago can deliver big waves, sometimes arriving underwater, until reaching shore. EJ’s photo wasn’t taken on a crazy stormy day. Watch yourself.


Bodin Historic Photo 82 Main Street Gloucester, MA 01930

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  • Amazing story–thanks for sharing. I’ve often wondered about the safety of the breakwater in winter, what with rogue waves. I imagine this could happen any time of year.


  • should have had korkers on..


  • Great story and wonderful, almost eerie, photo of the jacket.


    • Marsha didn’t want to be photographed, so I made a portrait of the jacket. It is eerie, and reminds me of what could have happened if she hadn’t been so lucky.


  • Great post. It is scary how a relatively peaceful looking sea can turn wild with little or no notice. I was astonished to see those waves crashing over the Dog Bar on a lovely day when the harbor was so calm. Before I saw that wave, we were heading for the Dog Bar – not to go all the way out but just to get up and see what was happening on the other side. After hearing Marsha’s story, I won’t go out there again until the water’s warm enough not to freeze to death if a wild wave comes along. She was very lucky Jim McCoy was on the scene.


  • Wow, I had no idea this could happen. We walked out there when visiting in October but like EJ stated, I don’t think I’ll do it again unless it’s warm weather. Thanks for telling the story and for the pictures!


  • The breakwater is 735 yards long or just a tad over 4 tenths of a mile. It takes more than a few minutes to get back and the seas can change quite a bit while you are staring down not wanting to twist an ankle stepping from block to block of granite.


  • Before EPLS was automated and the station had keepers.the breakwater and the station would be closed to tourists when the seas washed over the breakwater.


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