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.
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.
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.