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Sub netted goodwill in fishboat rescue

Oct 24 2012
The Sand Dollar fish boat, owned by Randy Lovesin, sank in the Strait of Georgia in May 1982. 

The Sand Dollar fish boat, owned by Randy Lovesin, sank in the Strait of Georgia in May 1982.

Photograph by: Handout , Times Colonist

The owner of the sunken fish boat Sand Dollar has surfaced in Nova Scotia, and says he is thrilled at the prospect of reuniting with the crew of the U.S. submarine that rescued him and deckhand Dana Gudbrand from a skiff in the Strait of Georgia.

Randy Lovesin, now 63, changed his name from Wagner and has been living in Nova Scotia since 1982, when his West Coast fishing career ended with the sinking of his boat.

The adventure of being rescued after nine hours adrift in a rowboat was just one of many, he said.

Still, he was pleased when his daughter in Comox forwarded him a Times Colonist story about the USS Pogy inviting him and Gudbrand to a San Francisco reunion of the submarine's crew in 2014.

Gudbrand said in a story published Sunday that he was pleased to hear the submarine crew remembered the rescue.

He didn't know the skip-per's whereabouts, however, having lost touch with him after the sinking.

On May 13, 1982, Lovesin and Gudbrand left Sidney and were on their way to fishing grounds up north.

Lovesin, who was 33 at the time, said he remembers fire breaking out in the engine room while the vessel was off Nanaimo.

"I tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher," he recalled Monday.

That failed, so Lovesin woke Gudbrand, then 19, and got him into the life-raft.

"I went back to put the fire out [after Gudbrand] was nice and safe - he was my responsibility at the time," Lovesin said.

The boat burned for two hours before sinking.

Despite the explosion of propane canisters, no one came to rescue the pair.

They remained in the raft for nine hours.

Pogy crew member Dennis Haines said he saw the rowboat on the horizon and thought "these guys ... must be nuts to be out here in weather like this."

The sub approached the small boat and took them on board, Haines said in an email.

"As I recall, one of the men had on wetsuit pants but only a T-shirt for a top and the other had on pants and a shirt," Haines said.

A coast guard hovercraft that arrived to pick up the two men caused a stir among the submarine crew, he said: "We thought the hovercraft was pretty cool."

The Pogy crew came ashore to a warm welcome from those who heard they'd rescued Canadians.

"A lot of the crew visiting Victoria as well as the Nanoose area had a lot of free drinks once it was known that they were from the submarine that rescued their countrymen," Haines said.

Lovesin lost the Sand Dollar - but the bigger investment was fishing licence, which was not insurable.

He had grown up fishing in Nova Scotia and took his family back east, only to find the industry there was struggling.

He learned to cut meat and spent a few years working for large grocery stores. Then he switched to selling life insurance in an office, he said, "and I was quite successful at it."

Lovesin now runs his own insurance brokerage through Blue Cross and is planning to retire in a couple of years.

He said the invitation to meet the submarine crew at their reunion "is a fabulous idea."

"I would go, no matter where it is or what time of year. I'd gladly meet them," he said.

"I don't imagine they have too many rescues, and you wouldn't in a nuclear sub."


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