A marble monument on Secretary Island marks an incident 50 years ago when three people died.

SOOKE HISTORY: A 50-year-old loss

While one man had been rescued from Secretary Island, three others were missing. Our little community was shaken.

Many things are constant in our little maritime community: one is generosity of spirit and neighbourliness, while another is the power of the ocean.

Out-of town telephone calls a few weeks ago, and a boating accident that happened 50 years ago, tied these together for Sooke folk.

It was Aug. 13, 1966 that the Daily Colonist carried the heartrending story:  While one man had been rescued from Secretary Island where he had managed to struggle to safety, three others were missing. Our little community was shaken.

The lone survivor was picked up the evening of Aug. 12 by Art Bailey, who ran Sooke Harbour Marina. Bailey had become worried when the 14-foot boat with an outboard that set out at 11  in the morning had failed to return.

When the survivor, a Victoria man, was found shivering that evening, he described his attempts to reach shore through the kelp beds surrounding Secretary Island.

He said it was about 2 p.m. when the boat was swamped and overturned in rough water.

The search that followed involved the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Vancouver and the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Yukon, brought in for its powerful lights to scan the sea, while the RCMP conducted their search aboard Doug MacFarlane’s tugboat DeMac II.

It was the Christie family, living on Golledge Street, that suffered the multiple loss, with the father Wilfred Christie, his son-in-law Percy Kabel, and Kabel’s 15-year old nephew, the three who could not be recovered in time.

It was Joan Christie (now Martin), Kabel’s widow, now living up-island, that contacted the Sooke News Mirror a few weeks ago, concerned with the 50th anniversary of the accident, who hoped that it could be possible for a photograph to be taken of the marble monument that the family had placed on Secretary Island.

Ryan Landa of the News Mirror staff tried to organize a drone to circle the island and take a photo if they could find the monument, but in the end it was master fisherman Danny Heggelund, with his son Jamie, who found a day with calm seas last week so they could land and locate the 50-year old marker.

Jamie Heggelund, who took the photo for the Christie family, said the marker looked in pristine condition, though almost overgrown on the hillside.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.