“Hey, I read your article and I thought I should talk to you.”
That’s how a phone conversation started with the man known as Ki, who two separate groups of boaters helped save on July 4th after he was found floating and hypothermic in Dungeness Bay after his boat sank.
Thanks to the efforts of Sue Cram, Dick Neil plus John Robert Labbe and his family, Ki was pulled out of the water and raced to John Wayne Marina in time for paramedics to stabilize him. He was released from Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles several hours later.
“I’ve run in the Relay for Life before. This was a relay for my life,” Ki said.
Ki, who wished to leave that as his identification for the sake of privacy, wanted to tell his side of what happened.
“The one thing I need to correct,” he said, “is that I wasn’t leaning over to drop or pull a crab pot like they thought, though I get why they thought that.” Cram, Neil, and Labbe all thought that Ki may have been leaned over the side of his small, lightweight boat, causing it to capsize.
The truth, Ki says, is that after he had dropped both of his crab pots, the boat was too light for the conditions.
“When I opened up the throttle a little bit, a wave pushed the bow further up and water started coming in over the stern,” Ki said. “I had to jump out because of how fast it was filling up.”
Ki said that he tried to hang onto his sinking boat for as long as he could, but had to abandon it eventually. After that, he hung onto an empty five-gallon gas can that was floating after coming out of his boat.
“I tried to swim towards shore a couple of times, but I just couldn’t make it work. Without that gas can, those people never would have found me,” Ki said.
“Then they did find me, and I don’t remember much after getting to their boat.”
A longtime runner and someone who works professionally with marathoners internationally, Ki said he couldn’t help but think of relay races when it came to how his life was saved.
“There’s four stages to most relays,” Ki explained. “Sue and Dick were the first runners, John was the second, the paramedics were the third, and the doctors brought it home. I’m so, so grateful for everything they did.”
When asked about not having a life jacket, Ki said that was a “really bad decision,” and explained it as being partly due to being “too excited and moving too fast” getting ready to go crabbing that morning to unwind from a rough week of work.
“This is the fourth year I’ve done this, and I got used to doing it in more stable boats,” Ki said. “So when I got everything else loaded up, I didn’t even think about pulling out my life jacket. I just got in the car and drove.”
But the conditions on the water were worse than Kai said he had anticipated, with rougher seas and higher winds than he was used to. Those conditions coupled with a smaller, lighter boat than he said he was used to lead to his near-tragedy.
Ki has since retrieved his boat and motor from John Wayne Marina, having found out they were there from reading the Sequim Gazette story about his rescue. He says the only losses were his oars and “some really good bait” that were in the boat when it went under.