P.E.I. boat rescues New Brunswick herring boat crew

The fishing boat, Miss Tornado, sinks in 127 feet of water off the western end of the Island.

Eric McCarthy newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on September 14, 2012

SKINNERS POND - The message Chantel Bezeau got when she answered her phone at 2:56 a.m. Friday startled her.

On the other end of the line was her boyfriend, Peter Augustine, and he was telling her his fishing boat was sinking.

Bezeau said she sensed something was wrong even before she heard Augusine's voice.

"When I looked at my phone, I said, 'wow, there's something going on.'"

Augustine, who had just arrived at North Cape after a three hour sail from Pointe Sapin, New Brunswick and hadn't yet taken on any herring, said a hose that pumps water through his engine to keep it cool broke off and caused his eight year-old fiberglass vessel to quickly take on water.

"By the time I got to the engine room the water was four feet and I couldn't do anything with that," Augistine said.

"I gave my girlfriend a call and I told her the boat is sinking and there's no way I can stop it, because the water is coming in like crazy."

While she had him on the line, Bezeau could hear Augustine, the captain of the Miss Tornado, give his coordinates to Coast Guard.

"I was asking if they were alright and he said, 'Yes, we're alright.' Next thing he had to go."

Another hour would pass before Bezeau would hear from him again. By then Augustine and his two-man crew were safely aboard Young Guns, a herring boat out of Tignish, captained by Alden Gaudet.

"I knew they had the (survival) raft, but the worst thing comes to your mind when something like that happens," she said.

Bezeau left her Miscou Island, New Brunswick home around 4 a.m. Friday and met up with Augustine and his crew at Tim Hortons at O'Leary Corner around 9 a.m.

RCMP officers who had helped coordinate the rescue, had driven them there for breakfast.

Augustine said he shot off a flare when he gave Coast Guard his coordinates. He could see fishing boats searching for them about a mile off and sent out another flare.

That's when Gaudet first caught sight of a flare and went full-throttle in their direction, arriving first on the scene.

Gaudet said the boat was level with the water when he arrived. He and his helper, Alex Tremblay, pulled the life raft away from the sinking boat before helping the men aboard. A short time later the Miss Tornado went down stern-first, leaving about two meters of the bow sticking out of the water.

To mark the spot, Gaudet said they tied a buoy with about 200 feet of rope to the stranded vessel before taking the crew to shore. His depth sounder indicated there was 127 feet of water at that location.

Augustine, who fishes snow crab and herring, said his boat is insured. He hopes to have his boat repaired or replaced by next fishing season.

"You can't replace a life, but you can replace a boat," Bezeau said.