By Mike Davis, Marine Harvest Canada
At approximately 0130 on April 2, 2012 the MV Orca Chief heard a distress call from the landing craft Lasqueti Daughters. There were 16 people on the Lasqueti Daughters (many of them tree planters) and they had dragged anchor in a small cove at Wicklow Point - waters East of Port McNeill. The vessel was aground and in danger of breaking apart on the rocks.
Weather conditions were SE 35-45 knots and increasing.
We were the only vessel to respond to the mayday call and it took us about two hours to make our way from Knight Inlet over to Fife Sound with weather conditions deteriorating.
Once on-scene we realized that the small cove the vessel was in was too tight to get into with the much larger Orca Chief. We stood by all night with our lights on the stricken vessel and monitored the situation for the Canadian Coast Guard Joint Rescue Center in Victoria until the CCGS Cape Sutil arrived about 0600. Once on-scene the Coast Guard vessel requested that we launch our lifeboat (the Zodiac) and transfer the stranded crew out to them.
We brought the Orca Chief in as close as possible to the mouth of the cove to provide some shelter from the wind (now SE 50-60
knots) and waves. Two Marine Harvest staff took the Zodiac in and transfered 14 people while additional Marine Harvest crew stayed on the Orca Chief to keep watch.
Once all crew had been transfered the CCGS Cape Sutil took them to a nearby logging camp and we recovered our Zodiac. We were then stood-down by Rescue Center in Victoria, thanked for our efforts, and sent on our way. The Captain of the Cape Sutil gave us a “high-five” for the boat crew and was nice enough to stay close while we recovered our lifeboat – a hairy adventure at the best of times.
In the end, we were sleepless for about 36 hours, but our original task - the safe delivery of salmon to farms in the area – was completed, just a little later than expected. It was a happy ending. The tree planters were safe and the landing craft was recovered.
I would like to personally thank my crew on the Orca Chief for an excellent, professional job that was carried out as safely as possible under some very trying conditions. It is very stressful to watch your friends and crew-mates leave the safety of the Orca Chief to bounce around in a washing machine in front of you knowing there is nothing you can do should something go wrong.
Luckily, this time everything went right.