Three men are safe after being rescued by helicopter in rough seas off Vancouver Island Wednesday night.
The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre responded to two calls of boaters in distress as wild winds and rowdy seas proved hazardous for two small ships.
The first call came around 7:40 p.m. from the sole occupant of a 25-foot sailboat off Ballenas Island, off the coast by Parksville.
The sailor radioed Comox and Victoria and reported his mooring line had broken near Nanoose Bay. Two rescue boats and a helicopter were dispatched and the helicopter reached him just after 8 p.m. His boat had run hard aground on Ballenas Island and was in no shape to be towed. The sailor was uninjured and taken back to Nanaimo.
A second call came from a concerned resident near Ladysmith, who saw two men take out a canoe around 5 p.m. and not return. The Cormorant helicopter, already in action for the previous rescue, swung by and spotted the men.
“One of the men was waving his cellphone at us from the tree line near Coffin Point,” said Capt. O’Brien. Their canoe had been swamped by high waves. “We found a good open area on the beach and landed there at 9 p.m.”
The middle-aged men were wet and freezing but otherwise unharmed. They were flown to Nanaimo airport.
“It’s a lesson on why you never take a canoe out on the ocean like that,” said Major Justin Olsen with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria.
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