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Two rescued after boat capsizes on Lake Michigan

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012 11:14 a.m. CST

CHICAGO (MCT) — A Chicago sailor and a friend were plucked from Lake Michigan when their sailboat capsized off Chicago’s Montrose Harbor on Wednesday — almost exactly a year after he was rescued by his wife when a storm flipped the same boat during a birthday celebration.

“He’s fine, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” Peter Kovats’ wife, Mary, texted as she checked on her husband, who was reported in good condition suffering from hypothermia. His friend was also doing well.

Kovats, 62, and the friend, also in his 60s, had headed out on the lake in the small sailboat “Peter Pan” early Wednesday afternoon. The winds were strong, and the water was choppy, police said.

The boat capsized near Belmont Harbor around 2:30 p.m., and winds carried it north to Montrose Harbor. When a police boat pulled up, Kovats and his friend were struggling to hold on to the side of the boat, officials said. They were not wearing life jackets.

Rescuers threw a line to the men, but they were too exhausted, apparently from hypothermia, a police spokesman said. Two divers then went into the water and pulled the men to safety around 2:50 p.m. Officials estimate the two were in the water for about 15 minutes. They were taken in good condition to Weiss Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital.

Kovats had a much more harrowing ordeal early last May when a storm arrived as he was celebrating his 62nd birthday aboard the Peter Pan with two friends. A gust of wind caught the boat and capsized it, sending all three into 40-degree water.

Back on shore, Mary Kovats was waiting for him at Montrose Harbor and growing worried. A rear commodore at the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club, she enlisted two volunteers and headed out in a power boat. She came upon the Peter Pan in about 15 minutes, but the crew was nowhere in sight.

Incredibly, they sighted Peter Kovats and his friends bobbing in their life-jackets and pulled them aboard. They had been in the water about 45 minutes, but all three survived and later joked that they would be sailing again soon.

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