By Tracey Hittel
Sad news with the death of experienced saltwater angler and guide, Tony Rutledge from Terrace, who hailed from the U.S.
The Kitimat tidal section of the Kitimat Arm is on the receiving end of powerful weather from the Douglas and Devastation channels.
Weather stations located in these areas are currently out of commision. Having been told repeatedly by federal government representatives in the area that we must wait until spring to receive proper service blows my mind – the winter weather is the worst for us as mariners.
Again we receive no support from the feds here in Kitimat. I’m sure if these weather stations that predict the storm fronts were not working in Prince Rupert they would receive immediate attention.
If the weather stations were working, would the information relayed by them have saved the boat from turning over that night in Kitimat? Perhaps.
When you’re out dropping crab traps in front of Minette Bay channel and the Kitimat River, there is a aggressive tidal rip that produces swells and a lot of side-to-side motion affecting the stability of a vessel. This can cause vessels to capsize, especially small lake boats, as was the case on Thursday night.
Falling into the water or flipping a boat is the worst case scenario and practicing man overboard drills is law for commercial vessels.
When a vessel flips, staying with the boat is the safest thing to do – you’re easily spotted by other boaters. If you also don’t have safety gear aboard your vessel, like life jackets, a VHF radio and flares, the boat is your only chance of survival.
When the temperature of the water is sitting in the 5 to 8 degree Celsius range, the heat from your body is exhausted quickly and you become stiff.
Hanging onto the vessel will inevitably lead to a loss of strength, and the desire to hang on for your life goes.
I know that Tony was a very strong man – who knows what happened out there. I can only imagine the fear and conversation the two men must have had while they were in the water.
This is another reminder that preparing yourself for the water is of the utmost importance. This time of year we keep full survival suits aboard our vessels, as well radios to give a distress signal and a handful of flares for hailed vessels enroute.