A lot of smoke can be seen from a boat fire on the Crofton waterfront Thursday evening. (Facebook photo)

A lot of smoke can be seen from a boat fire on the Crofton waterfront Thursday evening. (Facebook photo)

Man’s retirement plan vanishes in flames on the Crofton waterfront

Firefighters douse burning boat to prevent spread to nearby vessels as blaze delays Saltspring ferry

Countless hours of work by Gary (The Duck) Drake literally went up in smoke and flames on the Crofton waterfront last Thursday night.

Drake, getting ready to retire from the Crofton Paper Excellence Catalyst pulp mill in about a month, saw a boat he’d been working on destroyed. It’s not known what caused the fire, but some sort of electrical problem is suspected.

Crofton and Chemainus Fire Departments responded to the call.

“Quick response limited damage to other nearby vessels,” noted Martin Drakeley, manager of fire and bylaw services for the Municipality of North Cowichan. “Fire was extinguished rapidly and handed over to the wharfinger.”

Wes Bissett of Chemainus, a longtime friend and co-worker of Drake’s, has started a GoFundMe page for him and hopes it will raise $5,000.

“I’ve known Gary the whole time I’ve been at the mill,” Bissett said. “He bought the boat and was living on the boat for a while. His grand plan was he was going to sell the boat and use the money to fund his retirement road trip and to pick up another boat from Alberta on his way home. That kind of went up in flames for him.”

Drake had been utilizing Bissett’s place to work on the boat and store it before putting it in the water. It had been there less than 24 hours when the fire happened.

“I feel bad for the guy, the last three months and the legwork he put in,” remarked Bissett.

The fire caused about a half hour delay to the Crofton-Vesuvius (Salt Spring Island) ferry sailings the rest of the day.

“To add some salt to that wound, the boat reached its age where agencies would no longer issue insurance so it falls entirely in his lap,” noted Bissett.

The GoFundMe page is listed under Duck’s Luck: That Ship Has Sailed.

“We started this page in hopes of taking away at least some of the sting this absolute catastrophe has caused, so we’re hoping anyone/everyone can donate whatever they can to help make his well-earned transition into retirement at least a little less stressful than it has become,” added Bissett.

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Charred shell is all that remains of Gary Drake’s boat. (Facebook photo)

Charred shell is all that remains of Gary Drake’s boat. (Facebook photo)

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