Fish boat rescued from Hecate Strait

  • Mar. 28, 2005 12:00 p.m.

By Mariah McCooey-A fish boat from Queen Charlotte almost ended up in Davy Jones’s locker this weekend, after she began taking on water in the middle of Hecate Strait.
The Elling K put out a mayday call around 3:45 on Saturday afternoon (March 26), said Malcolm McCulloch of the Sandspit Coast Guard station. The boat began taking on water when a pump burnt out, and with the engine room submerged, the electrical power cut out shortly thereafter. Without power, the captain had to hook up the VHF radio to an emergency battery.
“They were cutting in and out,” said Mr. McCulloch, which made it difficult to pinpoint the sinking boat’s location. By the time the coast guard’s Cape Mudge and fisheries vessel Aero Post got on the scene at 6:35 pm, the boat was nowhere in sight, and the rescuers thought that it had already gone down.
“We knew they had an aluminum boat with them, and thought we’d be searching for that,” said Mr. McCulloch. In fact, the Elling K was still floating, but had drifted about 13 miles from her original position. Luckily, several helicopters also heard the mayday call, and were a big help in locating the boat. A coast guard helicopter from Prince Rupert, an American helicopter, and Search and Rescue airplane all did a fly-by, said Mr. McCulloch.
The Elling K was flooding when they arrived, listing badly toward the bow where the engine room is located.
“The stern was still fairly high,” he said, “but eventually it would have gone down.”
The rescue boats hooked up pump equipment, and continued to pump it out as it was towed back to the docks in Queen Charlotte. The crew was unharmed, and the boat was safely alongside the docks by 3:30 Sunday morning.
Mr. McCulloch speculated that it was a combination of factors that lead to the boat taking on water, including some residual swell from Friday night’s storm. In addition, the older boat was ‘ballasted down’ with water, as it was on its way back from dropping off a load of herring down south.
“It just opened up the seams a little,” he said, and although it wasn’t leaking too badly, the pump just couldn’t keep up.