"Hey there’s something wrong, check it out!"I opened the door to look and saw a rush of water coming up on the floor, "Holy crap we have a lot of water back here."Then a wave caught the side of the boat and came right in, causing the boat to roll instantly and there we were in the water. I grabbed the boat and hooked my feet in the handrails of the cabin, pulled Brian in and hauled him up on the bottom of the boat, then got myself up. I looked at my watch – it was almost one o’clock. The Cortez ferry was leaving from Heriot Bay on Quadra Island. We attempted to flag it down with a yellow rain coat, but with the big swells and low profile, they didn’t see us. We drifted on the boat for a while, then it started to go down, causing the boat to sit straight up and down.
I stood over the windshield and reached in a window to grab something that floated. There were life jackets right there. I started pulling and succeeded in getting one out between the waves and tossed it to Brian. I tried for another, but I couldn’t pull it out. By this time, Brian’s hands were too cold to zip up. I remember thinking, as I was standing on the side of the wheel house, waist deep in the cold ocean water with the bow pointing straight up and sinking, "This is really happening!” Then the boat went down. What a crappy feeling. Man, we were way out there, half-way between Read Island and the Bretons, about a kilometer from shore. On board we had flares, life jackets, cell phones; but there was no time to grab them from the time we felt the boat list, to the time it rolled over. The wind was blowing with swells about eight feet, which can be usual for a routine day in the oyster farming business.So there we were in the water. My feeling of despair turned into the will to survive.
We kicked our boots off to help us float, I grabbed Brian by the back of the jacket and we started swimming. I could see that he was weakening quickly from the cold. His movements were lessening as confusion and panic overtook him. I alternated between swimming and yelling at him to keep him focused. He couldn’t hold up. The last few times I checked on him, I knew he was gone, but I wouldn’t let go. I know what happens to people who go down out in the sea. Then a big wave hit and Brian, who was slight in size, slipped out of the extra-large floater jacket. My attempts to return his body failed… and that was the last I saw of him.I balled the floater up under my stomach and swam toward land. I don’t remember a lot of the swim, just glimpses of land and swells. I would turn my head away when a wave hit me to ensure I didn’t swallow salt water.
I remember seeing land and thinking, "That’s too far." Then I would think of my wife, Rhonda and the kids, and knew as long as I kept a grip on my floater jacket and I was swimming, I could make it. At one point my wedding ring slipped off my finger and I grabbed it, purposely placing it back on, and I kept going.I have a strong memory of the first rock I touched: twilight was turning to darkness and I felt the cold, sturdy surface of the rock, which revealed I had reached land. All I could think was, "Holy crap… I am going home." I hadn’t made it to Quadra Island but was on a small island not far from its coast. It was a perfect spot for me to have landed, as the surrounding shorelines were steep cliffs. After three to four hours in the water, my legs and feet weren’t working very well. The wind had died down and I was able to pull, drag and crawl my way up to the bush where I gathered the jacket around me, with my head and arms inside, pulling the hood over the head opening. I was too cold to fasten the zipper but I knew my breath warming the small shelter would keep my vital organs warm.
I passed out for some time and awoke to the sound of the coast guard helicopter. Knowing that I was not visible in the woods where I lay, I crawled down to a jut of rock, but found there was a tree on it that might prevent them from seeing me. I spied a rock lower down with a large sloping face on it above high tide, so I crawled through a ravine and reached the rock. I spent most of the night there. At one point, I thought that the search had ended, so made my way back up into the bush; but as soon as I got there, the helicopter was coming back my way. I limped to the opening and huddled up on my rock, watching the search and being ready to flag them down as they went by. Although the helicopter had me in their spotlight two or three times, and at one point the coast guard boat was just a few 100 feet away, they couldn’t hear me over the engine. I lay there until it became light out and thought of what I would say to Rhonda when I finally got her on the phone.That morning, I decided to screw the rescue crap and just save myself. My feet were swollen and sore but I managed to make my way around the island to "Canoe Pass", where I would be able to swim the 30 to 40 feet to Quadra Island. Just as I approached the spot, I saw a boat heading through the bigger Shelaligan Pass, but they couldn’t hear me over their engine. When I reached the spot where I was contemplating swimming, I saw a skiff coming my way.
I watched the boat wondering if it was going to veer off somewhere else. Then it stopped maybe 1,000 to1,500 feet away to check out a bucket floating in the water (from our boat), and I started to yell. Thankfully, he heard me and continued in my direction. Relief flooded my senses and I cried. He picked me up and brought me to the larger boat that had passed by. I jumped into the heated cabin and was handed dry socks, and given a great big hug. In the little boat, I used the fellow’s cell phone and called Rhonda."Hi Rhonda, it’s Troy. Would you mind picking me up in Heriot Bay?"Rhonda says my voice wasn’t very recognizable. She asked, "Who is this?""Troy!" "Fhghfghhg, it’s TROY!" Arriving in Heriot Bay, I watched as the emergency crews beat us to the dock and the causeway filled with people.
What a moving sight! The sea level must have rose two inches in Heriot Bay that day. They loaded me into the ambulance and started warming me; my temperature was 35.5˚C, so not too bad. This experience has altered the way I look at life. I feel sad to have lost a good friend and boss, we helped each other through thick and thin. I know that Brian would be overjoyed that I survived, for my wife and my children. Life goes on. Many people have passed judgment on the events of that fateful day. What I realize now is that we cannot judge anyone unless we have walked a mile in his or her shoes. We are all doing the best we can with what we know. Life is short and you never know when it will be over. Let’s enjoy the small things (like a rock to sleep on), love everyone and tell them so. Don’t wait, do it now. The little conflicts in any relationship don’t matter, bury the hatchet and give your friends and loved ones a hug. Let your anger go and replace it with love because life is way too short to blame, criticize or be angry. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it and believe in yourself.
I guess I have much more to do before I go and I am grateful to be here today to share my story.Some FactsBoat capsized December ?, 2008Average body temperature 37˚CAfter rescue: Troy’s temperature 35.5˚CBoat capsized 1 kilometer from shoreTroy swam 2.5 kilometers to a small islandWind was about 30 km/hourTroy is a deep-sea diver Troy is a paramedic Troy is captain of volunteer fire departmentTroy is 37, 6 foot, 215 lbsTroy was wearing: sweat pant, rain pants & sockst-shirt and fleece sweater