A dramatic rescue played out today when a kayaker flipped over in the rough waters near Victoria at the the Swartz Bay ferry terminal.
Jamie Graham was aboard the Queen of Cumberland destined to the provincial capital from Pender Island, when he says the captain came over the loudspeaker to inform passengers about a rescue operation just before 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
“They announced it on the ferry that we would be delayed for a rescue,” Graham told Black Press media. “There was a guy in a kayak that had flipped over. I don’t know why he chose to kayak today.”
Passenger Keijo Isomaa was on the starboard side of the forward section of the boat, and after hearing the announcement he started looking, ultimately spotting him just off the bow.
“I stood up and looked around for someone on the crew, couldn’t see anybody, and so I quickly went back to the food service area and I said, ‘Hey, the kayak’s right over there!’ She phoned up to the bridge right away,” said Isomaa.
The ferry continued ahead slowly for some time, and Isomaa was concerned the bridge crew had not noticed him. Isomaa said the vessel was several hundred feet ahead of the kayak before it began to reverse. It was then a Sea Tow inflatable sped by, and quickly pulled the man into the inflatable as well as his kayak.
“[The kayaker] must have been OK because the boat didn’t immediately go back, it turned around and picked up the kayak and the paddle,” explained Graham, who noted the weather was quite rough at the time.
Adam Coolidge, with C-Tow Sidney, was on his way to deliver parts to a broken down tugboat when he heard the call. A former rescue diver, Coolidge and his navigator Bruce Pickard diverted from Tsehum Harbour to the man, who by then was behind the ferry. His boat was designed to handle the rough conditions, and so he was able to scoop up the man and his kayak. A Sea King helicopter also came to assist, but the man was already on his way to land.
A spokesperson with BC Ferries says radio distress calls were placed by the kayaker and both the Queen of Cumberland and Skeena Queen responded. A rescue boat was launched, but not before rescuers in the zodiac were able to assist the kayaker.
Both ferries were slightly delayed by the rescue operation. The condition of the man is not known by press time, but Coolidge said the man was able to walk when he arrived onshore where paramedics took over.
Weather conditions have also cancelled sailings today between Hornby Island and Denman Island east.