CLAPPERTON ISLAND—A cruise ship pilot with a keen eye spotted three kayakers in trouble last Thursday, July 5 on Clapperton Island in the North Channel, calling the Canadian Coast Guard in Trenton with the trio’s whereabouts, aiding in their safe rescue courtesy of the United States Coast Guard that same evening.
Captain Rory Grant, a pilot aboard the cruise ship Victory I, was piloting the ship around Clapperton when he noticed a great deal of smoke coming from the north tip of the island. Upon closer inspection he saw two people waving their arms and towels in the air and jumping up and down, obviously trying desperately to gain the ship’s attention.
Captain Grant said the vessel was too large to aid in their physical rescue, but he did call the stranded kayakers’ location into the coast guard and blasted the ship’s horn to let them know they had been seen and assure them that help was on the way.
“They were 40 knot winds and three to five foot seas,” he told The Expositor, adding that the kayakers, three of them, had made a fire on the beach and when they saw the ship approaching, added boughs to the blaze to smoke signal the passing vessel.
“It happens from time to time,” Captain Grant said of seeing boaters, not so often kayakers, in distress in the Great Lakes.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the kayakers were separated from a larger group who were supposed to camp out on the south side of the island.
The US Coast Guard enlisted an MH60 Jayhawk helicopter complete with a rescue swimmer.
“JRCC Trenton requested our help, so we provided helicopter support,” US Coast Guard Officer Brian McCrum told the Detroit Free Press.
The helicopter took the stranded kayakers, all in good health, to the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport at 11 pm Thursday night.
Captain Grant urged all small craft boaters, including those in canoe and kayak, to carry with them a handheld VHF radio and to call in on channel 16 in case of emergency.