A Saturday morning training session onboard Canadian Lifeboat Institute’s Delta Lifeboat, August 28, became a real-life rescue experience when the crew sighted a stricken 33 ft yacht on the rocks that form the Albion Island Jetty.
A lone yachtsman was aground on the rocks, south of Steveston and close to Westham Island, from late the previous night. This area has trapped many vessels over the years and is one of the dangers that lurk in the Fraser River Estuary.
Delta Lifeboat Captain John Horton made a quick check with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) in Victoria and, as the incident had not been reported, the Lifeboat was tasked to investigate.
On approaching the yacht, the lone sailor advised the Lifeboat crew that he had been sailing from Victoria but had no experience in the Fraser River and no radio to call for assistance. Unfortunately, running hard aground at the height of the evening tide made it impossible to refloat the vessel until a full tide cycle of 24 hours.
Responding to an alert from Pacific Region’s JRCC, the Sea Island-based Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft Moytel, made swift passage to join Delta Lifeboat still standing by at the rescue location. The yacht was then boarded and inspected for damage. As it was not taking on water, and with a falling tide, plans were made to attempt to refloat the yacht on the next high tide at 10 o’clock that night. It was agreed the Delta would return to the Albion Jetty location to tow the yacht free as the tide rose.
A crew of 7 reported aboard at 19:30 when a full briefing and refloating plan was held. The RHIB was hoisted outboard and prepared.
The Lifeboat slipped at 2000 and proceeded for the Albion Box. While Exiting Sea Reach an outgoing tug reported a small vessel possibly disabled off Garry Point. Delta L/B was requested to investigate. Arriving off Garry Point 10 minutes later a search found no vessel in the area and so continued on its primary mission.
Now in complete darkness, Delta L/B entered the box and closed the yacht from the south side on the rising tide. The yacht was now still aground but with less of a starboard heel. The RHIB was launched and closed to survey the best towing points.
At 2052 a bridal was set up to 2 strong cleats. Returning to the Delta L/B the tow line was run out through the bull ring and secured to the bridal. The scene was kept illuminated by Delta L/B’s searchlights. Once secured Delta L/B went astern dead slow to await the high tide. Just minutes before this was reached and by applying more power, the yacht finally slid off the rocks at 2150.
A quick survey indicated no water ingress but as the owner was unable to start the engine, and using the RHIB, the tow line was transferred to the yacht’s bow and “Delta” commenced towing the yacht safely out of the box and set course for Steveston.
Large commercial traffic had to be negotiated and just west of Garry Point, the owner of the yacht reported his engine now running and able to cast off the tow. The RHIB was continuing to give close escort with Delta L/B ahead as the yacht was not able to display any navigation lights.
Finally, at 2250 the yacht was safely secured at the Imperial Landing and the incident closed.