New deck hands sensed danger, left ill-fated fishing boat before deadly trip

Brothers had 'gut feeling'

Two 19-year-old deckhands who left Cowichan Bay on the Arctic Fox II for a commercial tuna fishing expedition say safety concerns and red flags prompted them to abandon the mission a week before the boat capsized off the coast of Washington Tuesday, killing two people including the skipper.

One fisherman, who was found floating in a life raft, was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Members of the fishing community have confirmed that Capt. Tom Lindberg is one of the men who died.

Raymond Dixon and his twin brother Anthony, both from the Nanaimo area, had never been on a commercial fishing boat, but they responded to a job ad and met Lindberg the day before the 20-metre vessel left Cowichan Bay Marina on Aug. 2.

When he got onto the 73-year-old boat, Dixon said the beams in the galley had rotted and the cables of the stabilizers, which reduce a ship’s roll in wind or waves, were corroded.

“You could tell it was an old boat, it didn’t have updated gear, stuff like that,” he said.

He said the lifesuits were so old, he and his brother had to wax the zippers to make sure they would do up.

The brothers sailed with the boat to Victoria, where Lindberg made an overnight stop to replace a hydraulic pump that blew, Dixon said.

“I didn’t know what was wrong with the boat,” he said. “My brother said when [Lindberg] fired the boat up it was smoking and doing all this stuff.”

In Victoria, Dixon and his brother met the boat’s owner, Larry Teague, who told them they have to keep an eye out for boats because Lindberg’s eyesight was poor. Dixon believes Lindberg was in his early 80s.

Dixon said neither he nor his brother was asked if they had commercial fishing experience when they were hired as deck hands. Dixon said the joke in the industry is that often the only question asked is whether one can swim.

He said Teague told them if they made it through the season they would get a bonus.

Lindberg said the vessel would be leaving Victoria at first light on Aug. 4.

“That’s when we got our gut feeling that nothing was right,” Dixon said. “My brother Anthony said I don’t have a good feeling about this, I think we should leave.”

Dixon said the two left just before midnight on Aug. 3 while Lindberg was sleeping. The skipper called them the next morning and Dixon offered to help him find a new crew but eventually, by noon, Lindberg told him he’d found two new deckhands.

Dixon said when he heard news the vessel had capsized, he was shocked.

“I’m glad we listened to our gut feeling.”

In a statement, the company that owns the boat, Teague Fishing Corporation, said it is “cooperating with the ongoing investigation regarding the loss of the Arctic Fox II. We are grieving the loss of crew aboard the vessel and extend our heartfelt condolences to the families.”

The Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the Arctic Fox II to take on water and capsize early Tuesday morning about 136 kilometres offshore of Cape Flattery, which is just south of Port Renfrew.

At the time the vessel began taking on water, the wind was blowing at 25 to 30 knots, with three- to four-metre waves and a water temperature of 13 C

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