The 1934-built vessel in distress near Stewart Island in the San Juans was found to have a one-foot gash in its wooden hull. (Courtesy photo/Martin Nethkin)

Norwester was John Wayne’s first yacht

  WHATCOM ­— On Saturday, April 17, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office marine patrol deputies were conducting regular patrol along the U.S.-Canada border in the area just north of the Patos Island lighthouse when they heard a mayday call from a vessel.

  The Norwester, a 76-foot wooden vessel, had run aground at the entrance to Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island, some distance west, and was taking on water. The vessel had eight adults on board.

  Knowing that the U.S. Coast Guard was working even farther to the west, the marine deputies responded to this call and arrived to the scene 10 minutes later. The Sheriff’s boat was the first government vessel there, but was assisted by several private boaters.

  Deputies positioned their 27-foot Life Proof patrol vessel along the port bow of the Norwester and safely transferred the eight passengers and a dog. No one was injured.

  “Although this incident occurred in neighboring San Juan County, rescue knows no boundaries and we are fortunate to have great relationships with all of our marine partners who are willing to respond on a moment’s notice for those in distress,” said WCSO lieutenant Huso. “Several private boaters who had been in the area were also actively involved in the rescue effort. Their willingness to respond to such a tragedy is highly appreciated and a testament to the bond between fellow boaters.”

  A Towboat U.S. diver later confirmed a one-foot gash in the lower hull of the Norwester. The U.S. Coast Guard asked the owner to drop anchor to prevent the vessel from floating.

  The Norwester was built in 1934 and was the first yacht owned by John Wayne.