A Langley family has the three-man crew of a White Rock-based sailboat to thank for not coming to harm in the waters of Semiahmoo Bay last week.
Members of the Lower Mainland Yacht Co-op told Peace Arch News that the family – a mother, a father and their teenage daughter – had a narrow escape Thursday evening when they found themselves drifting, without life-jackets, in three small inflatable dinghies.
While the evening was clear, high gusting winds – reaching 20 km/h – and a rapidly moving, outgoing tide threatened to take them even farther out to sea.
Fortunately, co-op members Claude Guetta, John Mitchell and Michael Ray – crewing the co-op’s 28-foot motorized sailboat Lightcure – spotted the trio after dropping out of a race at around 8 p.m.
The family was towed to White Rock pier, and in spite of winds that made docking the dinghies difficult, they were returned to land wet but unharmed.
Guetta, who was skippering the Lightcure’s ad-hoc crew – drawn out of a hat for the evening’s scheduled races – said the boat found itself in a no-wind ‘dead zone’ near the entrance to the Semiahmoo Resort during the first race. After radioing race co-ordinator Wayne Foulds that they were dropping out, they headed back to the pier dock, running under power until the wind picked up again on the White Rock side.
“It’s lucky we did (drop the race) – we were just coming back in when we looked over to the beach and noticed the three people in really small dinghies quite a way off shore,” Guetta said. “We knew the tide was going out and that they weren’t going to be able to get back to shore. The father had lashed the three dinghies together but with the small plastic paddles they had, they weren’t getting too far.
“They told us they started out where the West Beach boat launch is. They ended pretty much at the foot of the Sandpiper (Pub), but about half a mile out.
“They were in bathing suits and didn’t have any sort of life-jackets – I guess they were thinking they would be (staying) close to the beach. But you have to respect the ocean – you never know (what can happen).”
Guetta said it was decided after throwing the family a line that the best course was to forfeit a second race and tow them back to the dock.
“It would have been a little difficult to have them climb out of the dinghies up the back ladder, so we towed them – for about half an hour.”
Foulds said the family was lucky that all they suffered was being shaken up.
“It was dark by the time the boat got them back to the dock… If the wind hadn’t let up, the current could have ended up taking them into the strait. At best, they would have had a very uncomfortable night.”
Guetta agreed the incident was yet another demonstration of the importance of life jackets when doing any kind of boating or rafting.
“It’s something people should be aware of. The water looks inviting, it looks like fun, but it can get treacherous.”