Glenn Hampton gives his pootch Cedar a scratch after bringing him back safely to Port Hardy. Behind stand the crew of the Regent

Cedar stays afloat

A man rescues his pets after his own dramatic rescue.

Glenn Hampton has just completed the world’s most expensive game of fetch in order to bring his beloved pooch, Cedar, back home.

Hampton was in his 17-metre sailboat, Magnolia, on Monday July 18 with Doug Munroe when the pair ran into trouble off Haida Gwaii.

The pair left port in fine weather, but events took a downward turn as the previously moderate seas began to worsen. Munroe, a diabetic, became ill and, with winds and seas getting worse, Hampton did what he could to reef sail alone but, as the swell approached four metres, he had no choice but to call Munroe to the helm. Events continued to conspire as a strong wave to their stern caused the pair to lose steerage before the battery banks went down, leaving the craft without power. Hampton was able to restore power long enough to call the Coast Guard.

“At [that] point I was just looking to get Doug off the boat ’cause he was going to die,” said Hampton.

A dramatic rescue followed as the SAR team battled the elements to bring the pair aboard the Cormorant chopper, scrambled from 19 Wing Comox. After SAR swimmer Robin Richardson had plunged from the chopper and got Munroe hoisted off dry, he dived again to collect Hampton, climbing the battered Zodiac on the sailboat’s stern to get on deck. With the pair in the sling a strong crosswind caused them to be dragged underwater until the chopper righted and gained elevation. The plan was for Cedar to be taken in the sling with Hampton but the wet and frightened animal proved too unwieldy to secure.

Given the precarious situation, there was no choice but to leave Hampton’s terrified pitbull and marmalade cat, Bananas, on board and head for shore. Munroe later recovered fully.

Hampton refused to give up on his beloved pets and mounted his own search and rescue operation out of Port Hardy, home to his sister Tracy, to get his furry companions back to dry land.

Hampton, a retired logger, first chartered a plane to scout the area where he was rescued. He found his storm-tossed boat about 100 miles adrift and marked the coordinates. Phase two saw Hampton hiring a tugboat, Regent, to make the 20-hour round trip to recover his vessel and its frightened occupants.

When the tug began its journey Hampton had no idea if his companions were even alive. “The last place I saw him (Cedar) was on the deck of a boat that was heaving so hard humans couldn’t stand up,” he said.

But when they came into range of the stricken vessel there was good news.

“Somebody was barking his fool head off when we got there so he was awful glad to see us,” said Hampton. “I was even more glad to see him.” Bananas was safely locked in a cabin below deck, but Hampton had been worried that Cedar, an avid swimmer, may have jumped in after him when he was submerged during his rescue or swept off the deck in the storm.

With the story broadcast on Global TV and with news spreading on Facebook, a small crowd gathered on the Government Dock to see the Magnolia return and Cedar taking his first steps on dry land after his ordeal.

The dog was in good shape after his ordeal with only minor health concerns. Bananas’ food bowl had fallen to the floor in the storm and Cedar ate the spilled food. Hampton was concerned that Cedar may have ingested some glass shards along with the cat food. Otherwise, beyond being a little thinner and a lot thirstier, he was in good spirits when he was reunited with his owner. “He was waiting — he knew we’d be coming back,” said Hampton.

After being helped off the tugboat, Cedar, tail in overdrive, ran to greet his extended family before jumping on to the Magnolia when Hampton emerged onto the deck. Bananas seemed more shaken, or at least less social, and he preferred to remain below on the Magnolia, occasionally peeking out from the bridge.

Hampton was quick to praise the SAR team and the crew of the Regent. “Search and rescue was incredible; 50-mile-an-hour winds,” he said, shaking his head at the memory. “The guys on the Regent here are total heroes,” he added in reference to the tug’s crew, adding that they had worked hard to get him a deal on the recovery.

It was still a costly endeavour. Hampton was reluctant to discuss figures but said that the operation cost close to $10,000 but said that Cedar is worth every penny. “He’s been a constant companion for eight years and everyone in town loves him,” he explained. “He’s a very special animal.”

With offers of donations coming in, the family has set up a trust account under the name of Hampton’s sister Tracy Hampton.

It can be accessed at any Scotia Bank under the account number 90290 01782 25.

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