Photo: The Ching Shih
aground in Hevenor Inlet.
As we motored south in Petrel Channel, I looked anxiously at the gray sky and calm waters, the calm before a storm?
The squawk of the VHF radio interrupted my thoughts. It was the Canadian Coast Guard broadcasting a distress call. I didn't catch the location, but Steve, who was sitting at the navigation station next to the radio, did. He picked up the microphone and asked for confirmation of the location. Then, he turned to me, "A boat's aground in Hevenor Inlet, only a few miles away. A Coast Guard boat is on its way but won't be there for two and a half hours. Let's see if we can help."
Dismayed, I thought of our plans to get to Kooryet Cove in Principe Channel that night. Hevenor Inlet might be on our route and only a couple of miles away but the boat was two miles up the inlet and responding would take time. But we had to do it. I looked around at the Channel, at miles of empty water; not one other boat in sight.
It was 11:40 in the morning and high tide was at 12: 30. A bad time to run aground but perhaps the boat would float off before the tide changed.
"What kind of boat?" I asked.
"They just said a 43 ft pleasure craft. Radio reception is poor so they didn't have much information. I hope it's not a Nordhaven." We both laughed at the idea of Osprey
with its 28 hp engine hauling a Nordhaven off the rocks.
We rounded the corner into Hevenor Inlet. "I see it," said Steve, looking through the binoculars. Then, "Good grief, how did they get up there?"
I grabbed the binoculars and looked too, the idea of the boat floating off on its own fast disappearing. I could see a white powerboat was perched on a rock, its bow down in the water, its stern several feet up in the air. An AIS signal from the boat was now visible showing its name as Ching Shih
As we got closer, we could see it was no Nordhaven, but a basic powerboat with one cabin. An older man stood at the bow, line in his hand. A woman stood on the side deck.
"How much water do you have under your bow," Steve asked the man.
With that water depth, we could back Osprey to the boat without risking running aground ourselves. The man threw me his line and I attached it to Osprey's port stern cleat. Steve put Osprey in forward and gunned the throttle. But instead of the Ching Shih moving forward into the water, Osprey swung to port. We let the line go and came around to their bow again.
"I need a bridle," called Steve. "Do you have another line?"
They tied another line to their bow port cleat and handed the two lines to us, one for each aft cleat. This time when we tugged, the boat shifted, then pivoted, sliding partly into the water to end with its starboard side in the water, its port side still on the rock.
Photo: Almost floating.
Next we had them put the lines on their mid-ship cleat. Steve gunned the engine again. As the engine roared, I watched the boat come sideways, sliding farther into the water until finally it was floating free. Another tug and it was away from the rock. A few minutes later, we heard the engines start. But when the man came back on deck, he reported that the rudder was stiff. Not surprising since the boat had been perched on the rudders on the rock.
's crew transferred the lines back to their bow and we slowly towed it out the Inlet. A Coast Guard inflatable met us at the inlet mouth and took the boat in tow at 2:15, almost two hours after high tide. It would not have been easy for them to tow the boat off by then.
Radio communications were still iffy. With our masthead antenna, we relayed messages from the Canadian Coast Guard inflatable to their mother ship, the cutter Tanu
, and Prince Rupert Coast Guard Radio. In the last radio transmission we heard, the Coast Guard was anchoring Ching Shih
in Newcombe Harbour to the north where they would await a commercial tow to Prince Rupert, about fifty miles north.
We turned Osprey
south again, but instead of going on to Kooryet Bay as planned, we motored through Ala Passage to Ire Inlet on Anger Island, 10 miles closer than Kooryet. As we turned into Ire, the rain started falling. We were glad to get to a good anchorage.
was the second boat we helped in response to a Canadian Coast Guard call. Both calls delayed our trip but not significantly so. If we ever need help ourselves, we hope there's somebody out there to do the same.
So what happened? How did they get on the rock? We never got a chance to talk to them; their radio was not working properly. But from what we saw, we could make a good guess.
From the position of the boat on the rock, it could only have gotten there by drifting over it at a higher tide and settling in place. They must have grounded at night when high tide was a more than a foot and a half higher, thought they would wait for the next tide, then discovered it wasn't enough and called for help. The rock was at the edge of a shallow indentation in the shore. They may have thought they could anchor in the indentation. But to our eyes, the indentation was not anchorable. Normal scope would have been too much to keep the boat offshore. They also could have dragged from a shallower anchorage further up the inlet - they had a large mass of kelp on their anchor. Either way it's a testament to how difficult these waters are.