B.C. shipwreck survivor recalls 10 days lost at sea
A Haida fisherman, one of three stranded on a B.C. island for 10 days in May, is now talking about the shipwreck and how he and his friends survived.
Jesse Brillon was prawn fishing with friends and brothers Brian and Dave Martynuik, south of Prince Rupert, B.C., on May 9, 2012 when their 15-metre fishing boat capsized.
The three men had been fishing for two days, 25 kilometres off the mainland shore, and were making their way to Haida Gwaii when their boat tipped over.
"Basically we just scrambled out of the boat and the boat flipped over so fast we were in the water before we knew anything. We just scrambled onto the bottom of the boat," said Brillon.
They tried to send a mayday call before the boat capsized, tossing everything into the cold sea water.
"After about three hours we realized it didn't happen. So we knew we were on our own then. Couldn't see land," said Brillon. "It happened so fast, we got our little life raft and a tarp and pretty much we were on our own from then."
18 hours on life raft
"Basically we just tried to huddle together under our tarp and stay warm — and stay awake, really, because we were in it for about 18 hours in that life raft. Fifteen of those hours were pretty tough. We were so cold we couldn't really do much," said Brillon.
The men spent the better part of a day in the life raft before they were able to use the tarp as a sail to navigate themselves towards Banks Island, in the middle of Hecate Strait.
Brillon spotted a pile of driftwood at the tip of the island and the trio sailed the life raft in that direction.
"We were pretty happy to set foot on land. We built a shelter out of driftwood right away, and Brian looked for water."
The men settled in for what they knew would be a long wait for help.
No one knew men were missing
Family and friends didn't expect the three to return home for days, says Brillon.
"Nobody was expecting us for two weeks, so we knew we'd be in for a bit of a wait before anyone was looking for us."
"Once we reached land and found our water supply, we pretty much knew we could spend quite a bit of time there, it was just a matter of finding food. We knew we'd be fine once we hit land, because we're all Haida and know how to live off the land and the sea," said Brillon.
They picked seaweed and sea urchins at low tide and began collecting debris to pile at the point of Banks Island, where they had set up their shelter.
"We just did whatever we could to keep our spirits up. Joked around and just looked for food and looked for junk and debris to decorate the shoreline with."
After 10 days on the island, the trio was rescued.
"An old timer with a sailboat was cruising around looking for debris on the beaches just happened to see all the junk we'd set up and came to investigate, and found us."
They feared, briefly, that the boat's captain would pass by without spotting them on the shore.
"He kind of drove past us at first and we were kind of worried that he didn't see us but he went all the way around the back side [of the island] and once he came in and dropped his anchor we knew we were saved, so we were all pretty happy."
He said it was an emotional reunion when they returned home, despite the fact that no one actually knew they had been stranded at sea.
"Our families and loved ones didn't know we were missing until we'd actually been rescued. We were kind of happy about that, to be honest."
"I'm honestly just emotionally, physically mentally drained from all this. Financially as well, we all lost a lot of stuff and there was no insurance on the boat. So we're all pretty tired I think from all this, but we're all happy.
"All the stuff we lost is replaceable, and we're here!" said Brillon.