Late afternoon, Monday, August 17th: High winds on Lake Windermere. Fifteen plus knots from the north. Dark waters with wind ripples and pearly whitecaps. Big, ominous rolling waves. Kootenay Lake territory. So much so, a 20 foot Malibu Wakesetter was swamped. You know those boats: big and flashy and solid and designed to accommodate good times on board.
Mel Gibson, a Timber Ridge resident and boater, saw it happen opposite the Timber Ridge Marina. “Winds can come up fast on the lake and as I made my own return to shore, I saw a wave come over the Wakesetter’s bow. Less than a minute later, another one came over.” That’s when things for the Malibu, took a turn for the worse and wet.
It was a team effort to rescue the swamped boat to shore and onto land, and begs the question, how many shipwrecks have there been on Lake Windermere? To be sure, more than a few. Exact number? Your guess is mine.
“I was at the dump when I got the call. ‘Jim you better get to the marina,’” said Jim Brewington, Timber Ridge Marina’s superintendent. “The winds were howling from the south all day and then switched north. Seems like when that happens, the big waves really start rolling.”
The Wakesetter’s owner, Lakeview property owner Scott Riddell, declined to be interviewed by the Pioneer.
“[Riddell] was calm and cool. He made the right decisions,” said Brewington. “Safety of his passengers was his top priority. Not the well-being of his boat.” Instead of going into the waves heading north to Lakeview and hopeful safe harbour, Riddell went south with the waves and east toward Timber Ridge.
Relatively new to the lake, Riddell wasn’t sure if where he would eventually run ashore, the lake’s bottom would do irrevocable damage to the boat’s hull. He went anyway. Any port in a storm; passenger safety comes first. “Where the waves came over his bow initially, the water depth is around 20 feet. It’s deep but it quickly becomes shallow.” The boat ran aground and the party of people on board made its way safely ashore, lifejackets on.
The RCMP were involved. They told Riddell the boat needed removing from the lake as soon as possible. For a number of reasons, ecological sensitivity at the fore. “To my knowledge there was no leakage, the boat remained tight,” said Brewington.
How do you get a swamped 20 foot open-bow Wakesetter out of the water? Problem solving, heavy machinery and manpower. “Neil Carey, one of the owners of Mac-Neil Landscape and Design got involved. We used his skid steer, tow ropes, the Timber Ridge barge and pulled it to where we could sump-pump and hand bomb out water by the Timber Ridge launch.” If nothing else, the incident is a reminder that no matter, everyone on the lake needs to be prepared and mindful of the weather.
At the Timber Ridge boat launch, Riddell loaded his rescued vessel onto his trailer and off he drove.