Shipwrecked B.C. fishermen survived on remote island
Published Monday, May 21, 2012 11:06PM EDT
Stranded on a remote island off the northern British Columbia coast for 10 days, three Prince Rupert fishermen often wondered if they would ever see their families again.
Jesse Brillon and brothers Brian and Dave Martynuik had set out to catch prawn when their fishing boat capsized and sank in the Hecate Strait.
"The water just took me. I had to start swimming to get out from under the tarp," Brillon said as the men recounted their ordeal to CTV News. They were rescued Friday when a passing boat noticed them.
"The water's damn near freezing and it's just bone chilling," Brian Martynuik recalled.
On the verge of hypothermia, the fishermen piled into a lifeboat, wet and shivering. Their mayday call never made it to the coast guard.
"I started thinking: ‘Am I ever going to see my wife and kids? Am I ever going to see my family and am I ever going to live to tell this? It was at a point where it could go either way," Dave Martynuik said.
But the men's survival skills kicked in and they fashioned a sail out of the tarp to make it to the remote Banks Island, south of Prince Rupert near the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Once on dry ground, the fishermen built a shelter out of driftwood and survived on clams and seaweed.
"It tasted like moss but it was better than nothing," Brian said.
They also managed to find a tiny stream of fresh water to keep hydrated.
On their second day on the island, a plane passed overhead and the fishermen frantically waved and called out for help. The pilot did not see them.
Their families in Prince Rupert were not expecting to hear from them for weeks, so no one had reported them missing. The men began wondering if they were presumed dead.
But on the 10th day, a local sailor happened to pass by Banks Island. He saw piles of debris the fishermen had scattered on the shore, hoping it would catch someone's attention -- and then he noticed them.
"I yelled out: ‘Boat!' and we started yelling and screaming and waving our arms at the boat," Brian said. "It was just unexplainable. It was just great."
Back home, their families were overjoyed.
"It went from the worst day of my life to definitely the best day of my life," said Dave Martynuik's wife, Marika.
"I was so happy I could look at my kids and told them everything would be fine and I was so happy I could hold true to that."
Despite the ordeal, the fishermen are already planning their next voyage along a similar route. They will depart this week.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Scott Roberts