It’s been a rough 48 hours for Ralph Hull and the families and friends of two contract workers who have gone missing while kayaking out in Sooke Harbour. Missing since 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 the paddles have not yet been retrieved. Hull said it 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 and called for a search. The two kayakers were also spotted earlier close to Whiffin Spit and again close to Possession Point by Russ Nicks. The search commenced Tuesday night, coordinated by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre employing helicopters, a navy vessel and the coast guard auxiliary but was called off at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. Involved in the search for more than 16 hours were 10 members of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Station #37-Sooke. Station #37 deployed two boats and it was the Sooke crew that located the first capsized kayak one-half a mile off Otter Point.
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 are scouring 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.
Jason van de Walk, from Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Station #37-Sooke stated that those who go out onto the water should always leave a plan with someone as to where they might be headed and when they are expected to return. They should, if possible, have a VHF radio or a cell phone. For a marine emergency *16 will get help.
“Make sure you have the right equipment and the proper PFDs,” said van der Valk.