Plover pulls two swimmers from Drayton Harbor

Published on Thu, Aug 7, 2003
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Plover pulls two swimmers from Drayton Harbor

by Jack Kintner

Two swimmers were rescued from Drayton Harbor last weekend after they came face-to-face with the changing currents and tides, while attempting an afternoon swim to Semiahmoo Spit.

Eric and Ruben Delagarza of Blaine and their cousin Robert Inea of Ferndale had jumped in the water off the public pier at the end of Blaine�s Marine Drive at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday evening, just an hour and a half after the beginning of a substantial flood tide. What appeared to be an easy swim for them, quickly turned into an hour-long ordeal.

As they swam west towards Semiahmoo Spit, across the quarter-mile Drayton Harbor entrance, the building current pushed them south, and the boys eventually found themselves swimming against it. Though they were wearing life jackets, they swam without an escort boat which made it difficult for other boats to see them.

After an hour in the water, Ruben Delagarza had been able to swim completely across, but his older brother and cousin were still only half-way across, far off course and being carried south into the Harbor. Plover captain Ryan Meyer spotted Eric Delagarza�s life jacket a few minutes into his last run from Semiahmoo back to Blaine and decided to investigate.

The boys were hauled on board by Meyer and his first mate and fianc� Ann Kirsch, who then explained to them how the currents, in addition to hypothermia and fatigue, can lead to drowning. Meyer and Kirsch also explained where to find a tide table and how to read it.

Meyer went on to tell the boys that Sunday afternoon�s flood tide would continue until 10:30 p.m. that night, raising the water level in the 15-acre harbor over seven feet. �Think how much water that is, to raise this whole harbor that much,� Meyer said to them.

�This is the first time I�ve pulled swimmers out of the water,� Meyer said, �but we�re all glad this was just a narrow miss and not a disaster.�

�We might have gotten across too but we had to wait for a lot of boats,� said Eric Delagarza, referring to the steady stream of returning weekend cruisers and a few commercial fishing boats.

As they grew more tired, they tried waving at the passing boats but no one responded except an unidentified sailboat that pulled up to the boys just before the Plover got to them.

�Each time we stopped we were stuck and couldn�t get closer to where we were going,� added Inea, �but Eric�s a strong swimmer like Ruben. He maybe would have made it.�

The Delagarzas� neighbor, Sue Sturgill, said the current can be surprising at the Drayton Harbor entrance. When preparing for the first annual Plover Swim three years ago, �We were very careful about going at slack water,� she said, �because it's faster than you can swim.�

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