He was sailing his boat, the 11-meter (36-foot) Sea Major, with two friends off the coast of San Francisco near the Golden Gate Bridge approximately four miles off of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach amid a voyage from Vancouver, British Columbia, to a marina south of Los Angeles, where he and Mayotte planned to be based for the winter. They also planned to spend time in Mexico.
Smith was up on top of the boat when a 25-foot wave knocked Scott and the ship’s steering wheel into the ocean. Smith’s friends were also aboard but were unharmed, while Smith’s fiancé, Yvonne Mayotte, and friend Bill Ellis was later treated for hypothermia. “I went down below to change into my foul weather gear so I could relieve Scott and then the wave hit and the boat went over on its side,” Ellis told the Ottawa Citizen. “Within seconds I went back up and Scott was gone and he took the wheel with him. We turned back around but couldn’t find any of the debris or cushions or the man-overboard pole,” he added.
Smith was wearing two sweaters and a pair of track pants; he was not wearing a life jacket. Ellis told the paper that he immediately began to throw flotation materials over the side, hoping Smith would be able to grab onto something. He put in a distress call and began trying to turn the boat around, but subsequently failed to find any trace of Smith. Ellis immediately contacted the coastguard, who arrived in helicopters within twenty minutes, and two vessels were on the scene ten minutes later. A 133-square-mile search was launched, but called off at 2 p.m. the next day when efforts were hampered by massive waves and fog. A member of the coastguard told the San Francisco Chronicle that some of the swells exceeded two stories in height. Smith’s friends and family continued a private search and rescue, hiring San Francisco-based Weststar Marine Service to look for the musician, but eventually called the search off. Smith was pronounced missing presumed dead, declared lost at sea. Smith lived in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, and had two sons.
“We have to confirm what we already believe in our hearts, which we don’t want to believe. We’re looking for anything that we can hang our hats on,” said Loverboy manager Lou Blair in a statement. “Everybody’s devastated. Last Saturday, this band and everybody were together at the Commodore Ballroom raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation,” Blair said of the band’s last appearance together, an event that raised more than $60,000.
Smith was an avid and experienced sailor, having owned boats similar to the Sea Major since the band hit big in the early 1980s. He had owned the vessel for about 18 months. The boat was docked in the San Francisco Bay Area while Smith returned to Vancouver to perform at a benefit concert November 25, which raised $62,500 Canadian for a local Diabetes Foundation. Smith had flown back to San Francisco and the trio had set sail just two hours before the accident. The band’s photographer, Dee Lippingwell, said Smith, a quiet but humorous man dedicated to his two teenage sons, was in great spirits at the benefit concert and was looking forward to the trip south and cementing his relationship with Mayotte, 31, his girlfriend of eight months.
Smith originally studied guitar, and at the age of twelve moved to bass. He was majoring in English at the University of Manitoba when he received a call from guitarist Paul Dean in Vancouver inviting him to join the band known today as Loverboy, best known for their hit singles ‘Working for the Weekend’ and ‘Turn Me Loose’, although their US Top Ten hits were ‘Lovin’ Every Minute of It’ in 1985 and ‘This Could Be the Night’. Loverboy sold over 23 million records and in 1986 the band won six Juno Awards in 1982.
After Loverboy disbanded in 1988, Smith was part of the band Dangerous, along with Mike Reno and Brian MacLeod. He also worked as a late-night radio DJ at CFOX, albeit briefly. Loverboy got back together for a benefit concert in 1991, and then reunited in 1993 and continued touring through the 1990s. Smith said in an interview, “We’re back because we like to rock and simply because promoters want to book us.”