Calls keep Nanaimo marine search and rescue volunteers busy

NANAIMO – Three call-outs kept Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteers busy early this week.

A sailboat needing a tow, an empty canoe found floating near Neck Point and another sailboat aground in Nanaimo harbour kept Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteers busy early this week.

The first call that Station 27 Nanaimo volunteers attended was for a sailboat adrift just south of Nanaimo.

Brandon Austin, search mission co-ordinator with the Victoria Joint Rescue Co-Ordination Centre, said two people on board had actually phoned the centre around 9 p.m. Monday to let them know their outboard engine wouldn’t start, but that they were still able to sail and did not need help yet.

“I think they were coming from Vancouver to Nanaimo,” he said.

Around 4 p.m. Tuesday, with calm winds, the centre tasked Station 27 volunteers with towing the sailboat into Nanaimo, said Austin.

Then on Wednesday, the search and rescue volunteers received two calls. Gordie Robinson, Station 27 administrator, said volunteers received the first call at 7:30 a.m. for an empty canoe adrift just north of Neck Point Park, reported by a local fisherman. He said on board were three lifejackets, a couple paddles, fuel and an engine that was still warm, so rescue officials figured someone had fallen out of the canoe and called in a helicopter and hovercraft. Around 11 a.m., the search was called off when the owner of the canoe phoned police to report his boat missing.

The man, who was camping on a beach in Lantzville, explained that he had tied up above high tide and woke up to find his boat gone, so one possible theory is that someone took the boat for a joyride, he said.

“We didn’t know he was safe until he phoned the police to report that his canoe was missing,” said Robinson. “It happens, though, and we have to err on the side of safety.”

Volunteers brought the canoe back to the Station 27 boathouse and the man came and picked it up shortly after.

The third call came in just after 9 a.m. when a sailboat ran aground on a reef in the harbour near the Dinghy Dock Pub after ending up on the wrong side of a buoy marking the reef.

The station launched its second boat and after ensuring that the man aboard was in no immediate danger, they returned to headquarters and the boater called a commercial towing service to help him off the reef.