A South Surrey man who was rescued this week after hours of drifting in the cold, choppy waters of Boundary Bay was in “surprisingly good shape” considering the conditions.
“We were all pretty concerned because he’d been out there for a long time,” said Sig Kristensen, a member of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue 5 team in Crescent Beach. “Chances of survival drop dramatically in those conditions.”
Kristensen said crews began searching for the man around 9 p.m. Sunday, after his family reported him overdue from a trip between Point Roberts and Crescent Beach in a 20-foot jet boat.
The man had left a broken-up voice mail stating that the boat was taking on water.
After an initial search along the route came up empty, the Crescent Beach team rendezvoused with RCM-SAR 8 Delta and the Coast Guard Hovercraft Penac, and – in heavy rain, 30-knot winds and five- to eight-foot waves – conducted search patterns from Point Roberts to Kwomais Point. Again, they came up empty.
The man was finally located off Maple Beach, on the east side of Tsawwassen, around 1:30 a.m. Monday, by a helicopter crew onboard the RCAF Cormorant Rescue 902.
“When we got the report that they spotted him and he was moving around, we were pretty happy,” said Kristensen, who was among several members of the Crescent Beach team who stayed on shore in anticipation of a crew change.
Kristensen credited the man’s “floater suit” with helping ensure a happy ending to the story, along with the boater’s decision to hunker down in a small compartment on his vessel, which further protected him from the elements.
“He didn’t come out till he heard the helicopter,” Kristensen said.
Hypothermic, the man was warmed on the hovercraft for about 90 minutes, then transferred to shore at Blackie Spit, where he was reunited with his wife and daughter.
Because of the rough water and high winds, it took another couple of hours to get his vessel – which had lost power after its jet-drive intake became clogged with seaweed – towed back.
Kristensen said the rescue effort was “about the longest” stretch that the Crescent Beach crew had been deployed for in some time.
The week prior, at around 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 4, they were tasked out after a catamaran went down west of the Crescent Beach pier, after striking something in the water.
“Whatever they hit just drove that keel into the pontoon,” Kristensen said.
“The whole thing just tipped over sideways.”
The vessel’s two occupants were able to swim to shore, but bringing the catamaran back to shore presented a challenge, Kristensen said. All of its sails and rigging were underwater, and the rescue crew was being pushed into the gear by the wind and waves – a potentially dangerous situation.
The vessel had to be towed back to shore at a pace of about one knot.
Kristensen said attempting to swim from a stranded vessel is not typically recommended.