Storm downs lines and boats, closes road

Pockets of power outages, Cowichan Bay Road closed, and not one but two boats sinking in the bay

Pockets of power outages, Cowichan Bay Road closed, and not one but two boats sinking in the bay: three telltale signs a storm hit the Cowichan Valley over the weekend.

While many didn’t see much more than driving rain, wind swept through some parts of the region, but nothing like elsewhere on the Island and in the Lower Mainland.

According to BC Hydro’s statistics, fewer than 450 customers were affected by the foul weather — all on Saturday, Dec. 5. That’s the same day the motor vessels Gravoleen II and Mixed Emotions sank in Cowichan Bay.

A third boat, a sailboat, also demasted at some point and was adrift in Cowichan Bay, according to Christopher Wickham of Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Unit 34 (Mill Bay).

It ended up stuck on the beach.

Wickham’s crew was dispatched to assist the two power boats taking on water.

“It was weather related,” he confirmed.

Gusts of 20 to 25 knots, (37 to 46 kilometres per hour) and a two- to three-foot swell were recorded at Cowichan Bay on Saturday.

“It was mostly the swell,” Wickham noted. “Just the way that bay works, it shallows up there so much, if there’s any swell there at all it just builds up and if a vessel is not ready for that or is compromised in any way, it’s hard to recover.”

RCM-SRU #34’s priority is to take care of people first and that’s what the crew of four did.

A man was on board the MV Mixed Emotions, a 45-50-foot power boat, that was quickly filling with water.

“We did extract him and get him to the shore,” Wickham said. “When we got there it was an unstable situation. It was taking on water faster than pumps could manage. Our crew assessed it and realized that even adding our pumps was not going to be able to keep up with the rate of water coming in.”

The hull at that point, Wickham said, had been compromised due to the weather.

As far as the Gravoleen II went, nobody was on board but it’s owners were aware of the goings-on.

Wickham said RCM-SRU #34 assisted the owners of both vessels to make sure that they were safe and cared for some of the assets that they had, and also made sure the boats weren’t endangering anything else in the area.

He believes a friend at the marina helped the 36-foot cabin cruiser Gravoleen II’s owners get her to the boat launch. It’s believed Mixed Emotions is still submerged.

Both boats had been secured to mooring boys in the bay.

Meanwhile, drivers are having to take the long way to even get to Cowichan Bay.

Mainroad Contracting’s roads manager said Saturday’s closure marked the second time this season for Cowichan Bay Road, and it’s anybody’s guess when that road will be reopened.

“It looks wet until at least the weekend anyway,” he said. “It’s a weather-related incident and Mother Nature is the only thing that will shut it off. We’re monitoring the situation and as soon as it’s safe to open the road, we will open the road.”

Environment Canada’s website has new weather warnings frequently. Visit http://weather.gc.ca/warnings to find up to date information.