Dungeness crabbers tell of bay rescue
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Wayne Brown, left, and Jaime Armitage stand beside Armitage’s boat, Maggie, which they used to rescue three crabbers whose kayak capsized last week.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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DUNGENESS –– Jaime Armitage knew when he saw a trio of young crabbers put their canoe into Dungeness Bay they were in for more trouble than they were expecting.

Not much more than an hour later last Thursday night, he and crab-mate Wayne Brown, both experienced crabbers in their 60s, were pulling the three out of the water and onto their boat, he said.

“I'm just glad we stuck around,” Armitage said.

“It wouldn't have taken long in that water for hypothermia to set in,” Brown said. “Just putting my hands in to get the traps froze my knuckles this morning.”

Tippy canoe

“I knew they were going to be in for more than they bargained for the minute I saw them pull up,” Armitage said.

Armitage and Brown were loading up their 1970 Highlaker boat Maggie at the old Oyster House boat launch, which is called Dungeness Landing now, after setting their crab traps when they saw men and a woman they said appeared to be in their early 20s bring a metal canoe to the shore.

The Peninsula Daily News could not contact the trio because Armitage and Brown did not get their names, nor was an official report filed with authorities.

Brown said the canoers told them they were from Sequim.

Dressed in hip boots and carrying a pair of commercial-size crab traps, the trio's canoe was almost immediately carried by wind and waves to the east of Graveyard Spit.

“It was really windy out there last night,” Armitage said. “They probably went a mile in 15 minutes.”

'There they go'

With nobody else around and a sinking feeling in his stomach, Armitage told Brown they were staying to make sure the trio was safe.

“I was going to head out there and get them when it got dark, no matter what happened,” Armitage said. “If something happened, nobody would have seen them.”

Armitage held his binoculars up just in time to see the canoe tip over and spill the three into the bay's cold waters.

“There they go,” Armitage remembered saying, and Brown hurried to put Maggie back in the water.

As Armitage sped his boat through the bay, Brown dialed 9-1-1 emergency dispatchers at 7:50 p.m., according to the police log, in case medics were needed.

The duo pulled up to see the three hanging onto the capsized canoe, the woman's waders filling with water.

All aboard

The two men swam around to the back of Armitage's craft and climbed in.

Armitage and Brown grabbed the woman, weighed down by her water-logged waders, and pulled her aboard.

Brown again dialed 9-1-1 to tell authorities the trio was safely in the boat and did not need any more help.

They tied a rope to the canoe and pulled all back to the landing, where they received a helping of thanks and remembered big smiles from the soggy canoe crew.

“Their youth is probably what got them into trouble,” Armitage said.

“But it's also probably what helped them smile through it.”


Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 13. 2013 5:32PM
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