Grateful dragon boat crew rescued from the rocks

submitted By Krista Siefken - Cowichan News Leader Pictorial
Published: April 11, 2011 6:00 PM

Despite being stranded on a rock in a dragon boat, Constance Leverton didn’t have to struggle to find her silver lining.

“I think the most important thing to mention is that when you’re in trouble, people are there for you, and it really means a lot to all of us on the dragon boat team that so many people stopped everything they were doing to be there for us,” she said.

“Us” includes Leverton and 21 other members of the Jolly Dragon team, who were enjoying a Monday morning paddle when trouble struck.

“We were paddling along nicely and had turned to head back toward Cowichan Bay along the shoreline, and boom, on top of a rock we were,” Leverton recounted.

“The disadvantage for us, of course, was the tide was dropping rapidly. We did everything in our power, with 22 paddlers, to get ourselves off the rock. We tried backward, we tried forward, we tried sideways, but all we could do was pivot on the rock.”

It didn’t help that the impact had punched a hole in the boat, and it was slowly taking in water.

A paddler with a cellphone called 911, and was connected with an emergency response team.

“They told us to stay in the boat, stay calm, bail as necessary, and help would come,” Leverton said.

“At that point, it went out on the marine radio, and the first craft to show up was a pleasure boat, I’d guess a 26-foot, American-owned craft.”

Then an air team arrived — a plane and Canadian Forces’ Cormorant helicopter from Comox, which Leverton said was already in the area for practice purposes.

“They circled around, making sure we were all OK,” Leverton added.

Finally, two small fishing crafts arrived, with assistance from Parks Canada, the Coast Guard Auxiliary out of Mill bay, and the Coast Guard cutter Cape Kuper out of Ganges.

The smallest vessel transported paddlers, four or five at a time, to the medium-sized craft, which in turn transported the paddlers to the privately owned pleasure craft for safe passage back to shore.

“It was a real relay team,” Leverton said. “And these people dropped everything for us — that means a lot.”

No one was harmed, except one paddler whose hand was injured while transferring the damaged boat back to the dock, after it had been towed there by one of the fishing vessels.

“I really want everyone to know how grateful we as a team, the Jolly Dragons, are to everybody that helped us get home safely,” Leverton said.

“We’re lucky to live in a society where people fall over themselves to make sure you’re safe.”

The Jolly Dragons team is predominantly made up of paddlers 50 and older.


Twenty-two dragon boat paddlers were rescued in Cowichan Bay on Monday morning, many of them transported to safety by this American pleasure craft.
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