It’s been a rough week for Ralph Hull and the families and friends of two contract workers who have gone missing while kayaking out in Sooke Harbour on Sept. 27. Missing since last Tuesday night are Morgan Porter and John Elgin, both 29-years-old.
The two were spotted messing around with two blue kayaks at the dock at Hull’s waterfront property along Sooke Harbour around 4 p.m.
“It’s been tough,” says Hull. “They have not been found.”
Hull said both plastic kayaks have now been found, a life jacket was found at Iron Mine Bay in East Sooke but both paddles have not yet been retrieved. Hull said he is 99 per cent certain that the life jacket was one of his.
“Iron Mine Bay sheds some light on where they made it to in their travels. To take those little kayaks out is sheer stupidity, and to get out past Possession Point is a big accomplishment.”
He said the lifejacket that was found was “a piece of s**t” and he would never use them for ocean kayaking, or the kayaks for that matter.
There are mysteries yet to be solved. Hull said a backpack is missing off the barge. The two men were working for Hull and they had just finished painting the house. He had hired Porter and he brought Elgin along.
“They were school mates since they were waist high and went through life together,” said Hull.
What happened, when and where still raises a huge question mark. Hull was in town from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. and the two men were supposed to fix things. When he came back they were no where to be found and Hull thought they had finished up and had gone home.
He said the two went “joy riding,” in the kayaks as they were spotted by kids on the property with the kayaks, a backpack full of beer and a lifejacket.
Ron Neitsch from 2 Reel Fishing Adventures coming back in at dusk spotted two overturned kayaks close to Otter Point. The two kayakers were also spotted close to Whiffin Spit and again close to Possession Point. A search commenced Tuesday night, coordinated by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre employing helicopters, a navy vessel and the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, Station #37 Sooke but was called off at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
At that time Hull did not know his two kayaks were missing and a text message sent out was not received until the following morning (Wednesday) when they put two and two together.
A strong ebb tide rushing out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca would have carried anything out with it.
Hull said that Porter was a good strong swimmer, and a capable and daring young man. But, survival in the cold waters of the strait for more than one-half an hour is next to impossible without a survival suit.
Hull went out in his own boat on Wednesday searching for the paddles or a sign of anything. If the men had made it to Secretary Island they could have survived but the strong current and ebb tide would likely have taken them out west.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Hull.
He said that as a captain he always has to think of what could happen on the water before or if it ever does.
“You have to use good common sense and logic around the water. You prepare. It’s a negative world we live in as sea captains and we need to deal with negativity before we ever go to sea.”
The RCMP and ground searchers scoured the beaches and shorelines in the area hoping for clues as to the mens’ disappearance. Water and air searches were called off after the time frame for the possibility of survivability in the water was reached.
On Oct. 1 five divers and 15-20 others searched the whole area including Iron Mine Bay, the Sooke bluffs and Otter Point looking for clues. But nothing was found. They searched the tide line as far as Sheringham Point.
“Nothing showed up anywhere,” said Hull. He said they were doing some research as to how long it would take for a body to come to the surface. He said that two fishermen had drowned out at Secretary Island and it took six weeks to recover their bodies.
“We need to get the word out to anyone traversing the water to keep an eye out,” he said.
Hull said that as sad as this whole situation is, it is a marine reality check and there are lessons to be learned from it all.
“The cause of all this is alcohol. Alcohol, boats and water don’t mix,” he said sadly as he looked out towards Sooke Harbour.
He said that anyone going out onto the water needs to know the basics. Know your waters, know your boat and have all the necessary equipment on board.
He said the “drug store lifejackets” should not be allowed to be sold because they could give a person a false sense of security.