We would like to thank the people of Port Hardy for your help when we were unexpectedly holed up in Port Hardy for more than a week. We’ve been boating in this area since 1985 and this was our first (and hopefully our last) encounter with a rock. Long story, as short as possible:
We were boating in Smith Inlet last Wednesday when we hit a very large rock a quarter-mile offshore while heading into a bay for the afternoon. This was our first time in Smith Inlet so we had checked the charts that morning for rocks and anything else that could surprise us. We saw where a shoal went out from shore but the chart was not very detailed and we thought we had missed it. The depth sounder showed about 150 feet just before it showed zero feet! We ran hard aground, just after high tide about 12:30 p.m.
First thing we did was check for water coming in. We saw no water — whew. We got on the VHF and called “Pan Pan.” The Coast Guard answered us immediately. They tried all afternoon to find someone in the area who could help us out. A boat from Duncanby Landing showed up but there was nothing they could do. Even a plane from your local airline circled several times and called to see if we were okay. The only civilization within many, many miles was a logging camp and the CG could not raise them.
If we were going to hit a rock, we couldn’t have done it better. We made a three-point landing—bow and props. If we had hit one foot over, she would have capsized at low tide. Of course, if we had been 20 feet over, we’d still be up there exploring.
We sat on the boat through the low tide (The Scottish Mist was completely out of the water). All we could do was wait until the next high tide, at midnight, and hope she would float off. The midnight high was 2 feet higher than the noon tide. But then, what? What if she didn’t float off? What if she did? Our props were mashed. The shafts were probably bent (they were). So, we would have to hope that she would drift free of the rock so we could drop the hook and try to figure out what to do next.
In case she didn’t drift off, we got down onto the rock and tied a line to it to hopefully hold the boat in place until the next high tide. We had to use the inflatable dinghy to get onto the rock. Wouldn’t you know it—we touched the dinghy to a barnacle on the rock and heard air rushing out. Now we had no lifeboat. When the Coast Guard heard that, they said, “We’re coming to get you!” We drifted off the rock just before the CG arrived. Wow, were we ever glad to see them! They started towing us at midnight and we arrived at Quarterdeck Marina at 9:00 a.m. We were pulled from the water on Thursday and have been camping out ever since in their parking lot, high and dry, while various people work on her. We got the shafts and one strut straightened. They are back on the boat. We had a spare set of props so they have been replaced. Steve, the fiberglass artist, has been working on the hull (there were cracks—we don’t know why we didn’t sink).
The Marina personnel have been wonderful: Thanks Randy, Jim and Ron. The expertise of everyone who has worked on our boat has been very impressive.
Everyone in town is so friendly. We’ve been going to restaurants and stores every day and we can hardly get anywhere; everyone stops us to visit. It’s been great.
A special thank you to the Coast Guard! The crew of the Cape Sutil and the inflatable that came along to help were very professional. What a great bunch of guys! We hear rumors that Canada is eviscerating the Coast Guard. Are they kidding? If it hadn’t been for the Coast Guard, we’d still be sitting on a rock in Smith Inlet, getting pretty wet every high tide.
Rich & Stephanie “Taffy” Satter