Saanich teen safe after maritime rescue

Crews from two communities including Saanich and a private vessel work together

As the red Zodiac-style vessel from Oak Bay Search and Rescue approached the shore line not far from Saanich’s Beach House Restaurant, Mina and Mike Purewal began to run as fast as the sands and rocks allowed it.

Dodging past curious by-standers, the couple couldn’t wait to hold their son Jovin, who had spent the last couple hours inside his kayak, fighting the winds and waves sweeping between the Saanich Peninsula and D’Arcy Island.

Fifteen-year-old Jovin had left for the small island from a nearby beach at around 11 a.m. Monday. A member of Gorge Narrows Rowing Club, the St. Andrew’s student set off as an avid kayaker and canoeist, who had always wanted to check out the small island, a former leper colony from 1891 to 1924.

“He has been wanting to do that for some time,” said Mike. “We told him to wait until the weather got better.”

Monday offered that opportunity and Jovin arrived on the island without incident. After spending some time on it, he set off for the return trip at around 2:20 p.m. after he had called his dad by cell-phone to let him know that he would be returning, with an estimated return time of 90 minutes or so.

While Mina and Mike could follow Jovin with a pair of binoculars during his trip towards D’Arcy Island from their nearby home, he did not come into view, as the clock was ticking down. Increasingly worried, the couple placed a 9/11 call.

Now standing on the beach to get a better look, Mina scanned the waves with the binoculars, while Mike talked to Jovin over his cell-phone.

They eventually located him further up the Peninsula, nowhere near where they had been looking so anxiously.

“The wind kept pushing up north,” said Mike.

But the eventual fate of Jovin, who wore a life vest during the entire time, still hung in the balance.

As Saanich emergency crews were readying a Zodiac-vessel on their own to recover Jovin, a nearby vessel belonging to SpringTide Whale Watching and Charter based in Victoria had picked up the radio chatter and eventually pulled the teenager inclusive kayak to safety.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, very much for helping out my son,” said Mike into his cell phone.

By this time, a small crowd of curious on-lookers and Saanich police officers had gathered on the beach to follow events. At one stage, this reporter scribbled down the phone number of the whale watching vessel that Jovin had relayed to his father. When it became clear that Jovin was out of the water, strangers congratulated the Purewals, who celebrated the rescue of their son with a deep embrace as hours of anxiety washed away.

One final twist remained though. The white whale watching vessel carrying Jovin was not heading towards the beach to deliver its extra passenger, but away from it, into deeper waters, heading south. At the same time, a bright-red zodiac was heading north. The two vessels briefly mingled on the open ocean, then departed ways, with Jovin having made an unusual maritime transfer.

When the Purewals finally arrived at the spot, where the Oak Bay Zodiac had dropped off Jovin, Saanich fire crews had already tucked him inside the cabin of one their pick-up trucks to administer initial medical care. After (presumably) some hugs from mom, and more medical care, Jovin returned home Monday evening, no worse for wear, but likely more respectful of the ocean.

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