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Boat sinks on way to Lutsel K'e
Vessel ran aground in dark, smoky conditions

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Yellowknife man's boat sunk while being towed back to shore last week after getting stranded on a shoal about 12 kilometres offshore.

NNSL photo/graphic

Michael Neil Woledge’s 12-metre boat sunk in Yellowknife Bay while being towed back to Yellowknife in rough water on July 1. - photo courtesy of Michael Neil Woledge

Michael Neil Woledge was on his way to Lutsel K'e late on July 1 when his electrical equipment failed. Woledge has been visiting the community for more than 30 years, but started travelling there on this vessel in 2007. He said on the night of July 1, there was little visibility, due to both the darkness and smoke from forest fires raging through the territory. As a result, he veered about three metres off course and hit bottom, Woledge said.

"I was approximately 12 miles out of town and I lost my power, my GPS and all that started flashing," he said. "I was running up past these islands and it was dark and it was smoky, I couldn't see very well at all."

Woledge contacted the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary in Yellowknife, but when the crew arrived everyone realized the Coast Guard vessel didn't have enough power to tow the boat, said Jack Kruger, search and rescue co-ordinator for RCMP G Division.

Woledge's boat is a 12-metre redesigned former fishing vessel.

"The vessel was too large for our Coast Guard Auxiliary response boat," Kruger said.

The next day, Woledge commissioned a barge, hooked up his boat and headed for home.

But the lake had other plans, Woledge said.

"The wind kept getting higher and higher and higher as we went," he said. "A really bad wave hit us and it drove the barge right over my boat. I had eight half-inch chains holding it onto the barge and it just ripped it apart."

The boat sank beneath the waves almost instantly.

"Down it went," Woledge said. "It was gone in seconds."

Woledge said he plans to send a diver to try and find the boat, but he knows not much will be salvageable.

"What happens when you raise a boat from the bottom like that, literally everything inside of that boat is pretty well junk," he said.

Woledge said he was thankful to the Coast Guard and Yellowknife fisher,

Brian Abott, for offering their help.

He said he isn't sure if the boat will be worth retrieving, or if he'll be able to purchase a new boat and equipment. He said the equipment was worth about $40,000.

Woledge and his son had also spent hours working together on the boat after he purchased it in 2007.

"Me and my son worked at that ever since I got it, doing part of it each year," he said.

"I built the cabin and raised the deck and changed it around quite a bit. I was making it into a live-a-board, so I wanted more space inside than it had."

Woledge said he plans to send the diver down with a video camera to film the boat's condition. He said he'll make a decision once he sees the footage.

"It's doable, but at what cost?" he said. "I will have to see what's involved."

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