Craft founders in Mudge Bay; well-prepared boaters rescued


MUDGE BAY – A family is fortunate that they had taken appropriate safety precautions after their boat began taking on water in the North Channel and they successfully made it to shore after calling for help.

At 4:40 pm on Saturday, September 12, OPP Sergeant Mike Patterson, who was off duty at the time, received a call from his neighbour John McKeen to state that his son-in-law and granddaughter were out in a boat on the North Channel. The engine was not working and the boat was starting to sink.

Near the JD4 buoy, the boat appeared to have hit a shoal and began slowly taking on water. The boaters called 9-1-1 and Mr. McKeen to tell them they were in trouble.

Police near Little Current were busy with a separate call of a boat in distress near Low Island and could not immediately respond. Sergeant Patterson took out his personal boat and went in search of the troubled watercraft with Mr. McKeen.

Locating the sinking boat was difficult because the winds had taken them off their course but the sergeant found them at the shore of Mowat Island, just south of Clapperton Island.

“They drifted probably three or four miles with all the wind and the current that day,” said Mr. McKeen.

The story could have ended in tragedy if the boat operator and all the passengers had not taken safety precautions before the boat began taking on water.

“Whenever anyone takes out the boat they know they need to be wearing lifejackets and bring safety equipment,” said Mr. McKeen. “They had a phone with them and everyone was wearing their lifejackets. They had bailing buckets, flares, their bilge pump was working and they managed to paddle to shore where they tied up and waited for us. They did everything right.”

Sergeant Patterson and Mr. McKeen spotted them at the shoreline of Mowat Island. They took the granddaughter and her friend into their boat to keep them secure until the OPP marine unit arrived on scene.

The son-in-law inspected the damaged boat. The propeller had come off the inboard motor but he did not see any cracks in the hull and the drain plug was secure. Mr. McKeen suspected that the motor must have struck a rock and broken the seal around the engine.

OPP support arrived on the Gwen M. Boniface boat and the distressed boaters transferred from the sergeant’s personal watercraft to the police vessel. The officers took them to the marina in Kagawong.

Mr. McKeen said his granddaughter particularly enjoyed the trip on the police boat and he commended the officers for their professionalism and keeping everyone calm during the situation.

“When you need (the OPP), they’re there. The officers involved did everything above and beyond what they had to do,” he said.

The family arranged in the following days to tow the boat with a bailing pump back to shore.