Filed Under (Your Story) by Debbie on 20-10-2007

The Inside Passage to Alaska is a voyage many of us dream about.  My hubby and I are currently scheming to get Whisper into the sound so we can work our way up the passage.  I am grateful to Peter for the wonderful story he’s submitted.  Those who are planning a trip will be grateful for his insite as well.

It is with great pleasure and humble gratitude, I present the story of Peter and the Alanje.

Powerboat Alanje

The Titanic sank because of a lack of radio communications.  Alanje was rescued because of modern radio communications, with a bit of luck and help from above.

It happened this way….

On Tuesday May 8th, a beautiful calm day, Alanje headed for Russell Island, now a National Park, with Bill , VE7JY, a new member of the NHARC, his partner, Anne, also a Radio Ham and Marg, a former pupil of mine, colleague of Bill’s and now a retired teacher.   Bill is a former Physics teacher, as was I.  He is a renowned photographer of wild life, especially birds.   There is a major research project on endangered birds being conducted by UVic, and McGill (I believe) on Russell Island.  I hoped to learn a lot from Bill.  Marion had prepared a delightful lunch and we were eagerly looking forward to a great day.

The weather was perfect.

 Russell Island

 Russell Island lies between Swartz Bay and Fulford Harbor and blends in with the coast of Saltspring Island.  It is difficult to distinguish it when heading north.  I was at the helm yakking away along with the rest of the group.  In spite of the electronic chart , the GPS, and Alanje’s icon following along the charted route…I managed to cruise right by our destination, until Bill suggested I had missed the island.  I was hugely embarrassed and made a 180 degree change in course.

We arrived at the usual anchorage and down went the hook.  In reverse, I let out the proper length of rode and set the anchor as I have so often done.

I rowed the girls and the food to the little sandy beach in the inflatable dinghy and then fetched Bill with his expensive camera gear.  We enjoyed the meal, each others company and were about to set out on the trail for the other end of the island and the bird study.

Russell Islands leaving Alanje behind 

A sudden violent squall roared in from the west.  We were among the trees and it didn’t seem all that bad.

“I think your boat is drifting.” Bill says.

“No way!  Alanje is securely anchored.” Says I, a second look told me I was dead wrong.

I rushed down to the dinghy and rowed like mad but it was too late and I could not catch up with Alanje.  She crashed sideways into the rocks near the east end of the island.  How could this happen?

 Aground on the Inside Passage

 The storm  turned Alanje around and pulled the flukes of the Danforth anchor out of the soft bottom and from then on they never dug in again.  Instead they slid along the sea weed bottom like a ski on snow.  A Bruce anchor would likely have dug in.

 The caretaker on the island later told us, it was not at all unusual for Danforth anchors to slip in that area.  Now I know!

I climbed on board Alanje just as she hit.  I  grabbed the mike and called “Pan-pan” on channel 16, since my life was not in immanent danger.

The Coast Guard answered, “Is your life at risk?”

“No, but my boat is taking on water and I will lose her.” I told them.

I had to provide further details such as my name, the length and name of my vessel and my location; which with the GPS it was easy to provide the latitude and longitude.

A Parks Canada dinghy with two on board came by.  By this time my friends had arrived and tried to help me push Alanje off the rocks.  I had tried to push off with a boat-hook from inside the boat, but it bent.  Bill came on board and he and I tried pumping  but the bilge pump failed; it was a hopeless cause anyway.  I kept calling on Channel 16 pleading for help.

 Prince of Wales

 A Coast Guard vessel arrived and I asked for a pump to be brought to the Alanje.  It seemed to take forever for the dinghy from the main ship to arrive with the pump.  By then Alanje had begun to list badly as she took on more water.  I was
able to lift the three batteries to the high side before they became inundated.  When the pump arrived I asked for the suction hose to be handed to me.  This was refused.

“I have to do it myself.”  I said and more time was lost but when the engine finally roared into action the water level receded.  Hope rose in my heart.

The Coast Guard’s radio crackled and they were summoned by another May-Day.  “I’m leaving,” they said.  “Your life is not in immanent danger.” Off they went.

At this time I felt, all was lost.  I had asked the Coast Guard to summon a commercial rescue craft which they did.

With the water deepening, hope returned as a small craft with a 60 hp out-board engine arrived.  They put a pump on Alanje’s deck but were unable to start the engine.  When I had finally given up, they managed to fix the carburetor and the pump yielded a powerful stream.

The tide came in and Alanje righted.  She was towed at 5.5 knots to my boat house at CCYC with the pump keeping up with the inflow of water.

Meanwhile, back at the island, the Parks boat took my friends to Fullford and they  then took the ferry to Swartz Bay.  Remember I told you about my goof in missing Russell Island and having to turn back?  Well, had this not occured, we would have been walking a trail on the opposite side of the island when Alanje began to drift.

By the time we would have reached the bird research area, Alanje would have been lost.

I was lucky when Alanje was towed into CCYC because there was Director’s meeting at the Club.  I burst in and asked for help.  It was immediately provided.  An electric submersible pump was put on board and it was able to handle the inflow.

I could now dismiss the good men who had saved Alanje.  Thank you!

A Club member said he would sleep on board his boat next to my boat house and would look after things for me.  It is a good thing he did.  During the night the pump tipped over.  He caught it in time and supported it with a shoe lace!

The next morning I got on the phone to local boat yards and was able to arrange for a haul-out.  By the time I got to CCYC the work party was ready to put a Honda generator on board Alanje to provide power to the pump.  We were towed to the Boat Yard.

 Boat’s bottom damage

Alanje was lifted out of the water and found herself high and dry, waiting to be repaired.   I believe in miracles, and in the power of radio communications.  I’m thankful for all the help and to my poor wife Marion, who was so worrid about us all.

 bottom damage close-up

Peter VE7GCG

p/v Alanje

Alanje has now been repaired and is in better shape now, than she has been.  Over the many years I have owned her she has scraped the barnacles off several reefs.  I did the fiber glass repairs myself, it wasn’t pretty, but she is now.

 Boat repairs completed

 You may wish to visit me (click here) and read about Alanje’s journey down the Mississippi, up the Intra-coastal Waterway and through the Great Lakes.  She has been and still is, a wonderful little vessel and I love her very much.

PacificNorthwestBoating has an article on how to pull off the ground and you can read that “Here“.  Again, thank you Peter for a chilling story with a happy ending.  I’ll know what type of ground tackle to bring when I visit your cruising grounds.

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