Station 50
Station 20 Salish Seas
Station 37 Sooke
Stationt 14 Gibsons
June 5th, 2006
June 5th, 2006

Off-Duty Auxiliarist Rescues Four Swiftsure Sailors

Unit 35 (Victoria) Training
Unit 35 (Victoria) Training
Four American sailors who took part in the annual Swiftsure yacht race in the Strait of Juan de Fuca are grateful that an off-duty Auxiliarist was nearby when their catamaran overturned near Race Rocks.

The Cat Sass was on the final leg of the race May 29 when it stuffed its bow and pitch-poled in Race Passage.  The skipper of a nearby Boston Whaler saw the accident and radioed a mayday.  Unit leader and coxswain Mark White, a 15-year Auxiliary veteran with Unit 35 (Victoria), was fishing at nearby Church Rock and heard the call.  

"I had just brought in an 18-pound salmon and had freed up my gear when I heard the mayday," said White.  "I advised Coast Guard Radio that my Auxiliary owner-operator vessel would respond.  I got to the scene in about 8 minutes."

White found the four crewmembers clinging to the overturned catamaran.  He manoeuvred his Bayliner cabin cruiser through seven-foot seas to the stricken vessel and pulled the three men and one woman on board.  He treated them for hypothermia and took them to a waiting ambulance at Pedder Bay Marina.  Onlookers at the marina called White a hero, but White says the real hero is the person who saw the accident and immediately called the mayday.  

"That quick action activated the search and rescue system and saved precious time, something that can mean life or death for people in the water," said White.

White later assisted Canadian and U.S. authorities in locating and recovering the overturned catamaran, which drifted 13 miles to the northwest before it could be taken in tow.  

The often treacherous Race Passage was the scene of another mayday call the following day when a small recreational fishing boat lost power and was pushed up on rocks by the strong current.  Unit 35 Coxswain Mark Palmer and crew members Tina Polvi and Chris Campagnolo arrived quickly as a military helicopter and a naval ship stood by.  There were no injuries, and the disabled vessel was towed to Pedder Bay by a commercial operator.  The incident received front-page coverage in the Times-Colonist newspaper.  

"This was another opportunity for the Auxiliary to remind mariners, including small boat operators, that they should check weather and tides before their trip and make sure they have all required safety equipment on board, including an anchor in case they lose power near a dangerous shore," said Palmer.  


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