From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Rempels spend night stranded on beach

Bringing you highlights from 128 years of Chilliwack Progress news coverage.

Since first publishing on April 16, 1891 the Chilliwack Progress has been the newspaper of record in Chilliwack.

One hundred and 28 years later the Progress remains the longest continuously published newspaper in British Columbia. With the addition of a thriving digital operation anchored by theprogress.com, the Progress delivers more news to more people than ever before.

‘From the Progress Archives’ is a journey into the past, to see what was making news decades ago.

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Headline: Rempels missed but not far from safety

Date: January 23, 1980

Reporter: Bill Lillicrap

Keeping a cool head was likely a lifesaving factor for a Chilliwack businessman and his 22 year old son, Stan.

Henry Rempel and his son returned to their Hope River Road home last Friday after spending the night on a small island beach off the Washington mainland.

A pleasant day of fishing with a family friend, Cornelius Enns of Matsqui, changed complexion late Thursday afternoon when the sea came up unexpectedly.

The trio chose to seek shelter along the south coast of Saturna Island in the Gulf Islands where they normally fish.

With darkness drawing near they decided to aim for Sidney Harbor on the southeast coast of Vancouver Island. Misfortune struck as the main motor on the Enns’ 18-foot Sangster boat ran out of oil and ground to a halt.

A small five horsepower auxiliary was immediately pressed into action but it proved to be not enough to fight the prevailing waves in the saltchuck.

The fishermen manoeuvred to land on Stewart Island just south of B.C. waters and camped on a small beach, keeping themselves warm by donning lifejackets around a fire amid freezing temperatures.

Distress signals were sent by beacon throughout the night to small fishing and sailing vessels which frequently passed the area but they were not seen or acted upon.

Meanwhile the Enns and Rempel families at home contacted the RCMP who confirmed the truck the trio had taken was still parked at the Sunshine Coast. The Coast Guard was pressed into service, searching all night around Saturna Island where the fishermen had been before striking out for Sidney.

Finally at daybreak the small auxiliary engine took the three on a three-hour ride to Sidney, helped along by favourable winds and tides. Rempel recalled this week, “We were never in any real danger, but it was a good feeling to get the message through (to family of their safety).”

He added, “Had we panicked and decided to cross (the Straight of Georgia in heavy seas) we could have been in danger.” He added that father and son were never really afraid “but then we have never been in heavy seas with a boat.”

Much of the concern could have been avoided had the boat been equipped with a two-way radio. One was ordered months ago and arrived on Thursday with the anglers already in the water. It was installed into the boat this week.

Rempel explained in calm reflection on the experience, “God’s hand is in everything, whether we believe it or not.” His wife, Kay added “the real answer to our prayers was the wind pushing them to Sidney.”

Mrs. Rempel commented, ‘there was really nothing we could do, nothing” adding, “I knew Henry and Stan would not panic. Machinery can break down.”

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