Crew escapes trapped boat with massive iceberg approaching
Aboard a small fishing vessel trapped in ice for several hours and with large icebergs in the area, fisherman Glen Newbury contacted the Canadian Coast Guard Wednesday morning. He was told a ship would come to assist them later that evening.
The Double N was trapped in ice for more than a day before the four crewmembers on board were rescued by helicopter. — Submitted photo courtesy Joint Task Force Atlantic
Maintaining frequent contact with the coast guard, Newbury was told at 4 p.m. the ship would now not make it there until the next morning at daylight.
“I said, ‘Well, the way the icebergs are coming, we will not be here at daylight.’ It was too dangerous.”
Fortunately, a Cormorant helicopter rescued the crew of four 70 nautical miles northeast of Fogo Island Wednesday night.
According to Joint Task Force Atlantic (JTFA), two search and rescue (SAR) technicians boarded the 35-foot vessel Double N and helped hoist them onto the helicopter. That process took 19 minutes, according to JTFA. Newbury said one large iceberg was 500 feet away from the vessel by the time they left.
“When you’re looking up at an iceberg in a little 35-foot boat, looking at an iceberg a quarter of a mile long and 150 feet high — especially in the dark with just your lights on it — it’s not a good feeling,” said Newbury, who spoke with The Telegram by phone from his home in Shoe Cove.
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, there was no sign of his vessel.
“I think it’s probably crushed in the ice,” said the boat’s skipper.
There were five icebergs to keep an eye on in the area when Newbury first contacted the coast guard.
Those icebergs were drifting closer to the vessel. By 7 p.m., they were approximately one mile from the Double N. Approximately two hours later, the closest icebergs were three-quarters of a mile away.
“I called the coast guard, and they asked me would I require assistance from a Cormorant helicopter to get off the ship. Basically, at that time, it’s a hard call to make when you’re leaving your boat stranded in water. It’s not sinking. It’s not on fire. It’s not anything like that. It’s just a boat that’s floating in the water. But then you’ve got crewmembers you’ve got to think about as well as yourself. I guess you’ve got to think about life first.”
But then you’ve got crewmembers you’ve got to think about as well as yourself. I guess you’ve got to think about life first. Glenn Newbury
The helicopter was refuelling in Deer Lake at the time, and Newbury was told it would take 2 1/2 hours to reach them. At that rate, he felt it would be too late.
The Cormorant stopped refuelling so it could respond quickly. The decision to abandon the Double N was made at approximately 10:30 p.m.
“There was no ship in the area that could help us, and they didn’t have enough fuel on board to stay and play a waiting game,” said Newbury, noting it took the helicopter 1 1/2 hours to reach them. “They gave up fuelling to assist us, which I commend them for that.”
JTFA reported low visibility in the area and 110-kilometre per hour winds.
“It was dangerous as well for (the SAR technicians) because of the height of the iceberg. They could not get down close enough to get us off the boat if the iceberg got any closer, so, basically, we had to make the call and leave the boat.”
After 1 1/2 days trapped at sea, the crew of the Double N was rescued and transported to Gander. No one required medical treatment.
The Double N originally left its home port of La Scie on Saturday so its crew could take part in the seal hunt, which opened Monday. Losing the boat is a big deal for Newbury and his crew — he co-owns it with Larry Newbury (not related).
“It’s going to be a major hit, especially this time of year with our crab fishery right on the start of our season,” he said, noting they had just recently purchased an additional crab licence.