Prompt action by kayakers helped a boater out of distress Wednesday evening, after his 10-foot aluminum vessel capsized in Semiahmoo Bay just off West Beach.
The man was apparently unharmed after spending some 30 minutes in the water, clinging to the hull of his boat and attempting to bail it out. He was helped to shore by the kayakers just before 7 p.m., rescue crews reported.
Emergency rescue crews – including two Crescent Beach-based vessels, a Canadian Forces helicopter, a Coast Guard hovercraft and an RCMP boat – were called out to the incident, after sharp-eyed residents spotted the unfolding drama in the water and called in a 911 alarm.
White Rock RCMP Cpl. Nina Miller said Thursday that it appeared the man’s boat had flipped after hitting a wave.
Hillside resident David Firby told Peace Arch News he was looking out of a window in his home when he saw the boater “in trouble.”
“He was not in his boat and was attempting to bail it out using only his hands,” Firby said. “He was wearing a lifejacket but no one else was around.”
Firby said that when he called 911 he was told several other residents had also raised the alarm.
“Within seconds, we heard a siren on its way to the beach area,” said Firby, adding “the emergency response was nothing short (of) phenomenal – it was an impressive response to what could have been a tragic event.”
But the help of the two kayakers seemed crucial, according to his account.
“First we saw a small kayak with a gentleman in it who went out to see if he could help,” Firby said.
“From what I saw he may have given the boater in distress a bailing device. A second kayak (larger than the first) arrived on scene and looks like he gave a hand-held nailing pump to the boater.
“The boater eventually managed to get back in his boat but must have been in the water for at least 30 minutes.”
The kayaks held on to the boat from opposite sides in order to assist the boater in bailing his boat out, Firby said.
“Then the second kayaker tied a rope around himself and proceeded to start to tow the boat back to shore.”
It was at that point that the RCMP boat was observed travelling to the scene at high speed, he said.
RCM-SAR5 coxswain Andrew Newman said two Crescent Beach-based crews were tasked out to the “Code 3” emergency just before 7 p.m.
“They told me, ‘ Andy, we’ve got a guy that’s been ejected from a vessel,'” Newman said of the call from the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre.
In addition to the two vessels out of Crescent Beach and the RCMP boat, the rescue response included the 904 Cormorant helicopter out of 442 Squadron in Comox and the Coast Guard hovercraft.
On arrival at the scene, the crews found the boater was not in any medical distress, Newman said.
Resident Kathie Love could see the rescue helicopter and Coast Guard vessels from her balcony overlooking Oxford Street, she said.
“The helicopter circled a few times, right over shore… then when the two boats arrived and (were) about to land, the helicopter left,” she added.
The incident was not the only local marine rescue of the week.
The following afternoon (Sept. 11), RCM-SAR5 were tasked out after a parent reported that four teens had become trapped on a sandbar northwest of the Crescent Beach pier.
The current is strong in that area, and the ocean water “very cold,” he said.
The call came in around 4 p.m. and the crew successfully assisted the teens to shore.
That evening, the crew towed a pair of stranded boaters to White Rock pier after a rope from a crab trap got tangled up in the prop of their 26-foot power boat.
– with files from Tracy Holmes