Five people are lucky to be alive after being rescued on Sunday from a sinking fishing vessel by a Sooke resident and Sooke Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue.
The stricken vessel sent out a mayday broadcast around 2:09 p.m. after it started taking on water near the Sheringham Point Lighthouse.
The call was picked up by Sooke RCMSAR including several vessels, among them Sookie Ryan Chamberland, owner of Vancouver Island Lodge, a Sooke-based fishing charter.
When Chamberland arrived, he loaded all four passengers onboard and proceeded to tow the other vessel back to Sooke.
The captain had stayed behind to keep the water out as much as possible using a bailing bucket.
“Thank you to Vancouver Island Lodge and Ryan Chamberland for the quick response and assistance,” said Jason van der Valk, Search and Rescue operations manager in a recent Facebook post.
Van der Valk and his crew of two answered the call while training up at Race Rocks, but were still 40 minutes away from the scene. Upon arriving, they took over the tow from Chamberland, who then quickly took the four passengers back to Sooke while RCMSAR dealt with the sinking vessel.
At this point, the RCMSAR crew provided the captain with a de-watering pump with a capacity of 400 litres of water a minute, but “it was just barely keeping up” with the water coming in, van der Valk added, just as the RCMSAR vessel towed the other vessel back to Sooke.
“The whole thing took two hours, and that pump was going the entire time, just to keep the water at level,” van der Valk said, adding the vessel was brought back to the boat launch and immediately trailered with the pumps still running.
Once on the trailer, everyone got a glimpse of why the fishing vessel was taking on so much water.
“We took a look underneath and there was approx. a 6 ft crack along the hull,” van der Valk said, adding no one knows what caused it, as none of the passengers or crew recalled being hit or hearing any strange sounds.
Following the rescue, van der Valk commended the captain of the stricken vessel for handling the situation with professionalism and courage.
“I have to give kudos to the young captain, he did all the right things when he realized they were in trouble, he made the mayday broadcast, he took control of the situation, assisted his passengers off the boat, so in terms of his involvement, he did a fantastic job.”
Chamberland added his own post about the rescue on Facebook, with a little spirit-lifting tongue in cheek.
“I might not have won the halibut derby… but I think I had the best catch today.”