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Passengers saved from overturned boat

Boxing Day included a visit with emergency personnel for the passengers of a boat that overturned in Nanaimo Harbour.

Four people and their dog were travelling to Protection Island from Nanaimo Monday when their four-metre aluminum boat capsized about 100 metres offshore from the Gabriola Island ferry terminal in downtown Nanaimo.

Rodney Grounds, Nanaimo Harbour Patrol officer in charge, said the Harbour Patrol received a mayday call from Victoria Coast Guard Radio shortly after 4 p.m.

Grounds said fortunately all aboard were wearing lifejackets. They clung to the boat for about five minutes before they waved down a man making his way across the harbour from Protection Island in a three-metre inflatable boat.

"He had a three- or four-year-old with him," Grounds said. "He actually pulled them all out of the water and was able to get them into Nanaimo where B.C. Ambulance met them and assessed them for various stages of hypothermia."

Grounds commended the man for his actions, especially since he had a small child already on board when he undertook the rescue.

Sgt. Sheryl Armstrong, Nanaimo RCMP spokeswoman, said the victims told police waves started coming over the boat's transom and they couldn't bail fast enough to keep the boat afloat.

Grounds hasn't had a chance to talk to the victims to find out what led up to the incident, but he said waves bouncing back from the Visiting Vessel Pier after being kicked up by a 10-15 knot southeasterly wind were a likely factor.

"It's an area where you get a lot of confused sea because of swells that come back and hit it and you get a lot of standing waves," Grounds said. "It's a pretty treacherous little spot, especially in a small boat that could have possibly been at or near its limit."

Armstrong said the victims were released from the scene after ambulance personnel got them dried off and warmed up.

Port Authority retrieved the boat, which was claimed by its owners Tuesday.

"It was a really good ending to what could have been just an absolute disaster," Grounds said.

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