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Ferry provides windbreak as rescuers assist sailboat in choppy seas near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay altered course to help as RCM-SAR helped inexperienced sailors on windy night
Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue. (News Bulletin file photo)

The Queen of Oak Bay ferry provided a windbreak during a rescue operation in choppy seas outside Nanaimo this past weekend.

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue personnel from Nanaimo came to the aid of a sailboat in distress east of Entrance Island on Saturday night.

RCM-SAR was paged out at about 8:40 p.m. Aug. 7. There was more than one sailboat having troubles on a windy night, and after an initial distress call, it took a call to 911, as well, for the stricken sailboat to communicate its co-ordinates.

Russell Berg, deputy station leader with RCM-SAR Stn. 27, said a B.C. Ferries vessel was nearby and so rescuers asked for the ferry’s help to try to locate the sailboat in distress.

“They lit it up with their giant spotlight, and we basically saw it at the same time,” said Berg. “It was having real trouble staying into the wind.”

The SAR rescue boat pulled up alongside the sailboat and tried to provide guidance, but the two sailors aboard lacked experience.

“They were very afraid and wondering if they were going to survive the night…” Berg said. “They were rocking back and forth, the whole inside of the boat, everything was everywhere.”

The Queen of Oak Bay had altered its course and rescuers helped the sailboat to the protected side of the ferry. Berg boarded the sailboat and attached a tow line.

“Transferring from one boat to another in six-foot seas can be quite dangerous to do, so it was very valuable to have the ferry there to give us more calm seas to work with…” he said. “It was great co-operation between us and the ferry because they were able to provide a big wind wall for us.”

Berg said RCM-SAR wished to thank not only B.C. Ferries, but also ferry passengers for their patience, as the Queen of Oak Bay’s arrival in Departure Bay was delayed about an hour. Berg said rescuers could see passengers watching and filming from the railings.

“They gave us a round of applause … I’ve never had a rescue where I got applause,” he said.

RCM-SAR slowly towed the sailboat to Saysutshun’s Mark Bay and safety and the two sailors did not require medical attention. Berg said the incident should be instructive.

“Check the weather – they hadn’t done that – and make sure your experience level is appropriate to the weather conditions involved,” he said.

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About the Author: Greg Sakaki

I have been in the community newspaper business for two decades, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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