A North Island fisherman has been arrested by the RCMP on suspicion of drunken boat driving after they boarded a fishboat circling aimlessly with a man slumped at the wheel.
According to an RCMP media release, on Nov. 29, at approximately 9:50 a.m., the Port Hardy Marine Authority reported a 10-metre fishing vessel approximately 10 metres being operated in an erratic manner in the port.
Port Hardy RCMP Staff Sgt. Wes Olsensaid that by the time police arrived, the vessel had left the bay and was approximately four miles north of Port Hardy, still operating erratically.
“Members were able to view the vessel through binoculars and noted that it was just circling in the same spot out in the open water,” Olsen said.
The coast guard took two RCMP officers to the vessel where they found a man seated at the helm, slumped over, non-responsive and apparently not in control of the boat. The coast guard vessel unsuccessfully signalled the fishing vessel with its horn in an effort to gain the operator’s attention.
The vessel was travelling quickly and continually turning to the right in a circle that appeared to be less than 200 metres in circumference.
“The coast guard vessel came along side the fishing vessel trying to match its speed and turning radius which proved difficult due to the large wake being put off by the fishing vessel,” Olsen said. “The coast guard vessel was able to get along side the fishing vessel close enough to allow an RCMP officer and a coast guard member to jump aboard. The officer was able to safely remove the boat operator from the helm while the coast guard member brought the fishing vessel under control.
“The boat operator was grossly impaired and an open container of liquor was located nearby. There was another male found sleeping in the hold of the fishing vessel who was intoxicated as well.”
The fishing vessel and the two males aboard returned to the Port Hardy marina, where the operator was arrested for impaired operation of a vessel. Due to his extreme level of intoxication he was transported to the Port Hardy hospital for further examination.
Olsen thanked the local coast guard members for such a quick response to the incident, “and the quick thinking of officers on scene who brought this matter to a quick and successful conclusion. Things could have turned out much differently had the weather been poor and the Coast Guard not been present with a vessel in the water for a quick response.”
The incident remains under investigation.