A whale-watching company based in Nanaimo is warning people to be careful around strong currents after a frightening incident in Dodd Narrows over the weekend.
On Saturday, a whale-watching tour was underway when the captain of the lead boat saw two people in a canoe paddling in the narrows.
Dodd Narrows is the body of water between Vancouver Island and Mudge Island. It can be a challenging place to get through, even for boats with engines, depending on the tide.
“I believe it’s one of the top three most dangerous narrows in British Columbia,” said Rebecca Stirling, a marine naturalist with Vancouver Island Whale Watch and captain aboard the rescue vessel.
Vancouver Island Whale Watch was guiding a tour and passing through the narrows when those onboard the lead boat spotted two males in a canoe.
“Right at the upstream side of Dodd Narrows and I thought ‘Oh, that’s a peculiar space for this canoe to be. It’s running six-and-a-half knots and it’s still building strength,'” said Stirling.
Those on board slowed the boat and kept an eye on the canoeists to ensure they made it to Mudge Island when the canoe suddenly capsized.
The pair eventually waved for help but reaching them in the strong currents proved to be a challenge.
“We tried several opportunities to rescue them in the really narrow part of Dodd Narrows. It’s quite difficult in a larger boat to manoeuvre when you’re perpendicular to the waves or the big water is tossing you around,” said Stirling.
In about five minutes they were able to reach the pair with a life ring, get them out of the water, take them closer to a nearby boat ramp and help refloat their canoe.
Val Watson, a marine naturalist also with Vancouver Island Whale Watch, was watching it unfold from another nearby whale-watching boat.
“You never want to see someone in the water in distress when you’re out there but the fact that they got everyone on board so safely and efficiently. It was a lot of relief,” said Watson.
The pair, a father and teen son, are experienced and were paddling between Cedar boat ramp and Mudge Island when they got sucked into the narrows.
Those involved in the rescue say the lifejackets saved their lives and the outcome could’ve been much worse if the whale-watching boats hadn’t happened to pass by.
Earlier this month a man was presumed drowned and a woman was rescued near their boat by Protection Island.