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yakker problem near vancouver

Just clipped from the vancouver sun. great example of multiple screwups by someone who didn/t even know what they were. I like the comment about those short yaks being a problem.

-mick

Last Updated: Tuesday 1 May 2001 TOP STORIES

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Ferry crew rescues kayaker off Bowen

The Penticton man's craft was swamped after he went to right his girlfriend's boat
Jeremy Sandler Vancouver Sun with files from Keith Thirkell

Keith Thirkell, Special to the Vancouver Sun / The Zodiac is being winched back on board following the successful rescue mission off Bowen Island.

Keith Thirkell, Special to the Vancouver Sun / A kayaker is safe after being rescued by a crew from the ferry Queen of Surrey.

A kayaker is lucky to be alive after a passing ferry's rescue crew pulled him from cold, choppy waters northeast of Bowen Island on Monday.

Allen Bowen of Penticton had been kayaking for about two hours in Howe Sound with his girlfriend, Lisa Keith, when Keith's kayak overturned in half-metre swells. Bowen paddled to her and got her back in her boat, but almost immediately his own boat was upended by what he said was a huge wave.

Directing Keith to paddle for the craggy shore of Bowen Island and get help, Bowen was left stranded in a swamped boat from which he was fighting to free himself while gasping for air.

"I got stuck in my kayak because the spray skirt wouldn't release," he said.

Wearing all-weather outerwear and lifejackets, but not a wetsuit or a survival suit, Bowen was quickly losing energy and hope. Struggling in the cold water that reaches depths of 245 metres, he eventually freed himself from his gear-filled and sinking vessel and spied the ferry rounding Bowen Island into the main channel of Howe Sound.

Aware his time was running out, Bowen began waving his arms frantically to attract attention. So desperate was he to stop the boat, at one point Bowen took the inadvisable step of removing his bright yellow lifejacket and flailed it above his head.

Sailing through a steady drizzle, the Queen of Surrey, 139 metres long and carrying 388 passengers, was about two-thirds of the way through its 12:30 p.m. run from Langdale to Horseshoe Bay when someone on board spotted the figure bobbing in the water about 1.5 kilometres ahead of the ship's bow, approximately 750 metres off shore.

The boat's horn sounded three blasts and its rescue crew was summoned to the main deck as passengers and crew rushed to the windows to see what the commotion was about.

After about 10 minutes, the ferry's 14-foot rescue craft, with three people from the Queen of Surrey's crew of 27 on board, plucked a shivering Bowen from the water where he had spent at least a half hour.

In another five minutes, and showing signs of early hypothermia, he was on board the ferry and being attended to by the ship's medical crew.

The Zodiac was then dispatched to retrieve Keith from the shore of Bowen Island, who, also in the early stages of hypothermia, was also brought on board the ferry.

The ferry's crew notified the coast guard and emergency services personnel on shore, but both Keith and Bowen declined to visit a hospital.

Once safely aboard the ship, Bowen said he usually paddles on lakes.

"So the size and power of the waves out here caught us a little off guard, I guess," he said. "I was getting kind of numb out there. I'm very happy they have rescue boats on those ships, I guess I'm pretty lucky."

Jim MacDonald, a marine salvage specialist with the C-Tow Marine Assistance Network who arrived on the scene to try to retrieve the kayaks, concurred with Bowen's assessment of his adventure on and in the water.

"They were lucky, they were really lucky or they'd be dead right now," MacDonald said. "Howe Sound water is not great in the summer, let alone right now."

MacDonald, who couldn't find Bowen's swamped boat and left Keith's kayak safe on the shore of Bowen Island, said the pair's equipment contributed to their problems.

"It appeared to me that [Keith's and Bowen's] kayaks were very tiny. The kayaks that you see rented here on Bowen . . . could have withstood the weather that I encountered easily. [Keith's and Bowen's] kayaks, in my opinion, are too small to be out on the ocean."

BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Dykes said the ferry was delayed about 45 minutes, but there had not been any complaints.

"When you get a situation like that, people certainly understand you're trying to help out a fellow human being there," she said.

All BC Ferries vessels are equipped with a rescue boat and on average ferries annually perform 15-30 rescue operations, Dykes said. She added the last rescue of a kayaker by a ferry was in August 1997.

"The captain was extremely pleased on how his crew performed," Dykes said. "BC Ferries is very happy that we were able to assist this couple."

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