Port de Grave cou­ple who broke all the boat­ing rules have a new out­look

Cou­ple sur­vive cap­size; teach oth­ers safe boat­ing


There’s a long list of boat­ing safety tips, and you can bet that Don and Joyce Mor­gan of Port de Grave broke most of them over the years.

But that was be­fore a near-tragic mishap on Con­cep­tion Bay two years ago.

The Mor­gans have since be­come out­spo­ken ad­vo­cates for boat­ing safety, and say it’s a way of giv­ing back for what they be­lieve is a sec­ond chance at life.

“ Ev­ery day I’m alive is a won­der­ful day,” says Joyce, sit­ting next to her hus­band in the gal­ley of the Ze­phyr at the ma­rina in Port de Grave.

“ We have a new at­ti­tude on life,” Don adds.

It’s a warm, early sum­mer day in this scenic com­mu­nity. Most of the fish­ing ves­sels that home­port here are at sea, har­vest­ing crab and shrimp.

But it’s not hard to find a story of sur­vival. A crab boat across the har­bour has two of the win­dows on its wheel­house cov­ered with ply­wood, com­pli­ments of a rogue wave that smashed into the ves­sel.

And then there’s the amaz­ing story of the Nau­ti­cal Legacy, a fish­ing ves­sel that was con­sumed by fire in May 2007. All six crew sur­vived, in­clud­ing one, Michael Pet­ten, who was un­able to get into his sur­vival suit and spent two hours in the 2 C wa­ter. The Mor­gan’s can re­late to that. They were cruis­ing Con­cep­tion Bay in June 2008 aboard their prized pos­ses­sion, Joyce’s Dream, when it sud­denly cap­sized, send­ing them and the four oth­ers on­board into the bay.

The Mor­gans say it was only by the grace of God that any of them sur­vived. They had only pur­chased a three-per­son rub­ber boat two weeks be­fore, and all six man­aged to wedge them­selves into the small craft. With­out it, it’s pos­si­ble some or all of them may have died.

In­stead, they waited for res­cue for nearly an hour, and es­caped with only mild to se­ri­ous cases of hy­pother­mia. Their close call made pro­vin­cial head­lines, and turned out to be a life-chang­ing in­ci­dent for the Mor­gans.

But in­stead of count­ing their bless­ings and stay­ing off the wa­ter, they be­came more pas­sion­ate than ever about their sea­far­ing ways.

They pur­chased a new boat weeks later and spent a year trans­form­ing it from a fish­ing ves­sel into a dis­tinc­tive plea­sure craft with more mod­ern ameni­ties and technology than some larger fish­ing boats.

They chris­tened their new boat - a 45-footer - last sum­mer, and al­most im­me­di­ately joined a small flotilla of other boats on a cruise to Labrador.

They took with them a new­found re­spect for the sea, and a ves­sel that car­ried the lat­est and best safety equip­ment money can buy. “ We were break­ing all the rules be­fore,” Joyce says. They sailed alone at night; barely gave a thought to floata­tion de­vices; con­sumed al­co­hol while at sea; sailed in chal­leng­ing weather con­di­tions; ig­nored emer­gency ra­dio prac­tices; and much more.

They learned a hard les­son two years ago, and are putting the ex­pe­ri­ence to good use.

If you can name a piece of safety equip­ment that could, or should, be car­ried on a boat, chances are they have it - GPS; two ma­rine ra­dios; emer­gency bea­cons; so-called “ditch bags” con­tain­ing ev­ery­thing from flairs and med­i­cal sup­plies to foil blan­kets and a back-up ra­dio; life rings and a fire axe. And of course they have a rub­ber boat.

They won’t leave the dock with­out a cell-phone stuffed in a wa­ter­tight bag, or a pock­etknife fixed to a waist belt.

There’s a safety brief­ing for any­one who comes on­board, and they even hand out copies of the Boat­ing Safety Guide at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

Don says many boaters in this prov­ince flout the rules, and it’s time more peo­ple learn from their mis­takes.

“ If we can en­cour­age some­one to take safety a lit­tle more se­ri­ously, it will be worth it,” says Don.

Pho­tos by Terry Roberts/Transcontinental Me­dia

The Ze­phyr is shown here docked at the ma­rina in Port de Grave last month. The Mor­gan’s, with plenty of help from fam­ily and friends, had the for­mer fish­ing ves­sel trans­formed into a grace­ful plea­sure boat.

Pho­tos by Terry Roberts/Transcontinental Me­dia

Don and Joyce Mor­gan of Port de Grave have a new lease of life fol­low­ing a near-tragic mishap on Con­cep­tion Bay two years ago. The avid boaters are now out­spo­ken about ma­rine safety.

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