A damaged fishing boat, the Venture H, sank off Deadtree Point last Tuesday while under tow to Queen Charlotte behind the Coast Guard ship Tanu.
No one was injured, but roughly 1,200 litres of diesel fuel were on board.
Coast Guard officials declined a request for an interview, but said in an emailed statement that overflights showed a thin diesel sheen from the sunken boat that stretched about a nautical mile offshore.
As of last Friday, no diesel had been found near the shoreline. Coast Guard workers were able to plug the boat’s diesel tank before it went down, though whether it remains closed will depend on sea conditions and how the boat is positioned on the seafloor.
“It’s crushing,” says Julian Rorick, who-owned the boat Venture H with his brother Raven.
“We took a lot of pride in our boat.”
Early on the morning of Monday, June 11, the Venture H struck a rock just off Hotspring Island / G̱andll K’in G̱waay.yaay when the Roricks and two fellow crew were heading out to go prawn fishing.
By midnight, with Gwaii Haanas staff and the Coast Guard on scene, Julian said they managed to re-float the 40-foot boat with three pumps and a generator.
Then they began a long, slow tow back to the Queen Charlotte dock behind the Tanu. Julian stayed on board to maintain the pumps, and Raven took over around 4 a.m.
Unfortunately, by the time they rounded the bar north of Sandspit, calm weather gave way to strong southeast winds.
“Coming around the bar there, we took some water over the side and it got into the hold,” Julian said. “It swamped all three pumps.”
“At that point there was no chance of saving her.”
Raven got off the Venture H and safely onto the Tanu, and then they cut the tow line. The boat only took three minutes to sink.
The Venture H was uninsured, said Julian, but the brothers still have the Quatsino Star, a 50-foot longliner.
Julian said the rock they hit off Hotspring was charted and they knew to avoid it. It was quite close to low tide when they set out Monday, and they misjudged the depth and the distance between the rock and a nearby reef.
At first, Julian said there wasn’t any hull damage — the rock only struck the keel. Built at the Union Boat Works in New Westminster in 1939, the Venture H was a wood-hulled boat, and had a heavy keel reinforced with ironwood.
“I think the damage occurred later in the afternoon, when the wind picked up a little bit and the boat was on its side,” Julian said.
After they got themselves safe ashore on Hotspring, the crew of the nearby Maple Leaf charter boat offered to try and tow the Venture H off the rock. But the tide had already dropped too far.
Julian said he was well impressed by the Gwaii Haanas and Coast Guard responders who arrived Monday. They ringed the boat with spill boom and did all they could to re-float and tow it before the bad weather they knew was coming.
Gwaii Haanas currently has seven staff trained in emergency spill response, and two with clean-up assessment training. All fuelling stations, the maintenance yard, and the vessels working in Gwaii Haanas are equipped with spill-response gear.
“They were there to help — gung-ho, ready to get the boat floating, and the Coast Guard were very professional,” Julian said.
“It was quite an experience dealing with these people. We felt very looked after.”