A bright orange speck off in the distance piqued Ryan Plane’s interest when he was out on the water fishing on a boat five hours off Vancouver Island earlier this week.
“We were just finishing setting our gear, about the break of daylight. I saw something floating about, quarter mile away in the distance. I just figured it was a bunch of garbage,” he told CHEK News on Friday.
It’s 7:45 a.m. Thursday morning, and the five person crew aboard the “Ocean Sunset” is angling for halibut and sablefish.
They’re 41-nautical miles off Ucluelet – and their fishing expedition is about to turn into a rescue mission.
“I put the binoculars on and I could see a guy waving a paddle. Thirty seconds after that, he let off his last flare,” Ryan said, noting that the orange speck was actually a life raft.
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They move closer to the tiny orange inflatable.
John Planes, Ryan’s uncle, said they found a man who, incredibly, has been drifting at sea on a life raft for nearly two weeks.
“When we got him on board, he gave me a big hug,” John said. “He was crying a bit. He was pretty happy.”
‘Just so lucky’
It was a rescue that almost wasn’t.
John says after a bad day on the water the day before, they almost decided not to head out that morning.
Thankfully, they gave it one more day.
Finding the lost mariner, who had been part of a two-person crew tuna fishing off the coast of Washington State, was a stroke of luck.
They pair were due back on Oct. 15, but never returned.
Travis Magee, Petty Officer First Class, said the US Coast Guard launched a search for the missing vessel “Evening” that covered thousands of kilometres of ocean.
But on Oct. 26, they called it off with no sign of the ship or its crew.
“It’s incredibly difficult to locate a life raft in such a large expanse of a search area. That’s why we’re incredibly grateful that the Good Samaritan vessel was actually able to locate one of the individuals who was missing, who was aboard a life raft,” Magee said from Port Angeles, Washington.
The second crew member, though, is still missing.
Two hours after Thursday’s incredible discovery, the Canadian Coast Guard met up with Plane’s boat.
“Thanks a lot guys,” you can hear the man saying as he boards the coast guard’s vessel.
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With a wave, and a thank-you goodbye, the rescue is over.
And a soul lost at sea, is found.
“It was his lucky day. And our lucky day,” John said.
The U.S. citizen was taken to Tofino’s hospital.
But John says he called him, and he’s now back home, lucky to have crossed paths with the crew from Sooke.
“It was pure luck. It was just, I don’t know if he would have ever been found, really. It was just so lucky,” John said.