Island whale watch boat captain recognized for rescuing paddlers who flipped canoe

The captain of the Nanaimo whale watching boat was one of 17 people to receive a rescue award at the Royal Society of Life Saving’s Honors and Rescue Awards at the weekend.

The awards ceremony, held in Vancouver on Saturday, April 1, is an annual celebration of the bravery of British Columbia and Yukon water rescue personnel.

Rodrigo Menezes, captain and marine operator with Vancouver Island Whale Watch, was honored for rescuing two men from the Dodd Narrows after their kayak capsized in the strait’s rough currents Recognized.

According to a news release from Life Saving, Menezes was on a midday whale watching trip last April for about 15 minutes and slowed his boat to safely navigate the narrow area.

A father and son rowed a canoe to Maji Island, and the canoe capsized when it was about 50 meters away from the island. Menezes tried to throw a rescue rope at them, but the attempt failed, and due to the current and shallow water, he was unable to get his boat close to the men without risking the safety of his boat and its passengers.

Once the men drifted into more open water, Menezes cut his engine and drifted the boat toward the men until he was close enough to throw them the boat’s lifebuoy and managed to pull both men aboard up the boat. Menezes also managed to recover the men’s belongings and their canoe, the release noted.

The individuals suffered from mild hypothermia but were not injured. Passengers provide them with blankets and hot tea.

Menezes led the men back to the boat ramp where their vehicles were parked, and he and his passengers continued their whale watching trip.

“Things can go wrong very quickly in these waters. Luckily they were wearing life jackets; this saved their lives,” Menezes said in a news release.

He was awarded the Silver Medal by the Life Saving Society for his service.

The Lifesaving Society, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to reduce water-related death and injury, has been educating the public and training lifeguards and lifeguards in BC for over 100 years.

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