The coastal waters of British Columbia are among the most treacherous in the world, with steep rocky shores, mazes of reefs, waves fifty feet high, and Pacific storms that blow in unexpectedly with the force of hurricanes. Most vessels that venture forth on these waters arrive safely at their destinations.
Others have not been so lucky. These twenty-one hair-raising accounts of marine disasters and near disasters come from those who lived through them: the fishermen, Sunday boaters and cruise ship passengers; and the rescuers who were there. These are stories of death, near-death, terror and grief. They are also stories of faith, determination, the tremendous courage of ordinary people, and the transformative power of surviving a life-threatening ordeal. The accounts are harrowing, funny, honest and very, very moving.
About the author
Keith Keller was born in Vancouver and grew up in the Fraser Valley. He has been a reporter and a teacher, and spent four summer commercial cod fishing from a one-family island off the Labrador coast. He is the author of the BC bestseller Dangerous Waters: Wrecks and Rescues Off the BC Coast, which was shortlisted for the Bill Duthie Booksellers Choice Award for best BC book of the year. He lives on Denman Island with his wife and two daughters.
Excerpt: Dangerous Waters: Wrecks and Rescues off the BC Coast (by (author) Keith Keller)
I saw a couple of boats go down past us and they came back up. We were fishing with someone, and he went down but he never came back up. Jason said, "Dad, they must have got out." I said, "They must have gone through Canoe Pass." That's an area where you can get through, sneak by all these big waves in behind these rocks.
So I went out, my motor in reverse, and I was pointing downstream, looking at these waves. That was the biggest mistake I made, right there. I should have had my boat turned the other way, pointing upstream so I could go forward.
I happened to just glance to my left - and we were only ten feet away from the shoreline, but it's sheer rock cliff down both sides - and I said, "Holy mackerel, we're moving." And we were doing 10 or 15 knots. I looked up again, and by the time I looked up we were within fifty or seventy-five feet of these waves. There's no grey area in there, they call it the point of no return, and I was in that. And I knew it. And I was in trouble.
I didn't panic. I said, "Geez, we're in trouble." I put the boat in full reverse, but the water came right over the back of the boat, and I was afraid of flooding the motor out. I knew I couldn't go forward and turn around. If I'd turned sideways the current would have just caught me and pushed me into it broadside.
I sat there and sat there. I knew I'd gone too far. I said, "I'll wait for one of these big rollers to lay down in front of me and I'll sneak over the top of it. That's how the guys get out: they time the waves. But I wasn't used to those big waves and I blew it. I went into the first wave not realizing that when they crash down they created such a pile of foam and bubbles - there was so much air in the water - that there was no thrust in my prop. When I gave it full guns to go, the boat just sat there. We're doing 4,000 RPMs, and we're sitting still, the boat's just slowly moving forward. So I'm sinking quickly into these bubbles. All of a sudden it grabs the solid water and it starts to climb this wave. By this time my timing's way out. I'm underneath the crest by this time. The crest is over top of me.
The wave came up and it took the cabin right off the boat. I remember my boy yelling, "We're dead." I just saw a huge blue wall of water in front of me, bluey-green. I looked up but I couldn't even see the top of the wave, it was so high. That's the last thing I remember. It took the cabin right off, took the windshield, took us with it and threw us out of the boat. There was a pile of boats behind us and they said they never saw anything like it in their lives. The boat was right upside down, and the wave threw it through the air about fifty or sixty feet. The wave came down on top of it and just blew it to pieces - nothing left of it.