Point Grey fishing boat rescue: We were lucky this time, says Vancouver councillor

DAVID HUTCHINSON 778-839-5442 DAVID.HUTCHINSON@CENTURY21.CA

 

Point Grey fishing boat rescue: We were lucky this time, says Vancouver councillor
 

FILE PHOTO: A Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft was among the vessels responding to a fishing boat distress call early Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Two crew were rescued as the boat sank.

Photograph by: Ward Perrin , PNG

 

A dramatic rescue of two fishermen Wednesday off Point Grey was lucky, but highlights how exposed Vancouver mariners are to danger following the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, a city councillor says.

A dramatic rescue of two fishermen Wednesday off Point Grey was lucky, but highlights how exposed Vancouver mariners are to danger following the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, a city councillor says.

The two men were rescued and sent to hospital to be treated for hypothermia after their boat quickly sank about five kilometres west of Point Grey early Wednesday morning, said Capt. Colin Henthorne of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Victoria (JRCC).

The 61-foot (18.5-metre) boat sent a mayday call at 5:15 a.m., and a hovercraft team sent from Richmond’s Coast Guard base arrived about 23 minutes later and made the rescue. he JRCC also deployed a volunteer Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue crew out of West Vancouver.

At the same time commercial boats were racing to the mayday call, with a tugboat arriving first and illuminating the scene. The two men had been forced to jump ship as their wooden boat sank, leaving them treading for their lives for about 15 minutes in the frigid water.

One of the fishermen was Keith Windsor, who told CTV News he “had nothing left” in him as he awaited rescue in the frigid waters.

“I [thought] about my kids and my family,” Windsor said. “They were with me, they were. Kept me going.”

Windsor said he awoke to the panicked cries of the skipper, only to see the stern of the boat under water.

The pair sent a mayday signal and jumped ship.

“I couldn’t really feel anything. I mean I was shaking for a good 40 minutes,” Windsor told CTV News.

The crew of the first vessel on scene, called the Island Tugger, was preparing to deploy an inflatable rescue boat when the Coast Guard hovercraft arrived, said tug company spokesman John Staynor.

“Every mariner sees it as part of their responsibilty to respond to distress calls,” Staynor told The Province.

In a series of tweets, an officer who responded to the call wrote: “That boat sank within five minutes of his panicked distress call ... Two lucky guys. A fast incident that could have ended badly.”

Henthorne said the distress call was made about halfway between the former Kitsilano base and the Richmond base, and teams from both Coast Guard bases would have been sent if the Kitsilano base were still operational.

Coun. Kerry Jang said it was lucky the Richmond Coast Guard hovercraft was available this time, but the ending could have been tragic if it had been engaged elsewhere.

Canadian Coast Guard officials are tasking several Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue crews in the Vancouver area with filling gaps left by the Kitsilano station closure, but these trained volunteer crews typically take about 40 minutes to reach calls, Jang said.

On Wednesday shortly after the two fishermen were rescued, the Richmond hovercraft was en route to Point Roberts to respond to a call of a boat on fire.

That means the hovercraft would be about 90 minutes away, making it impossible to make a timely response to a potential call in the Point Grey-area waters.

“This leaves English Bay and Vancouver completely unprotected when that hovercraft is away,” Jang said.

Jang — who has been city hall’s most vocal critic of the federal government’s Kits Coast Guard cost-cutting — reiterated that it’s only a matter of time before a short-sighted fiscal move costs lives.

“It is dangerous, and they are playing roulette, and we were lucky this time.”