The skipper of a crab-fishing boat whose crew used an ice pan to stay alive on Sunday is deeply impressed by the search and rescue team that brought him and his colleagues to safety in Newfoundland's Notre Dame Bay.

"We just struck a little bit of ice there. I guess I put one through her," said Lorne Fudge, describing how the DLL Venture ran into trouble while the crew was returning from the crab grounds.

The vessel's hull was punctured by the ice, prompting the five-member crew to scramble for safety — except that the safest option was on top of one of a series of pans of ice near the vessel.

Fudge estimates that an aircraft was over their heads within 40 minutes of his distress call, and that the crew members were airlifted to safety aboard a Cormorant helicopter a short time after that.

The crew, flying out of Gander in central Newfoundland, had been dispatched by the Halifax-based Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre

"I couldn't wish for a hundred per cent better. I was surprised," said Fudge, adding that his expectations have been coloured by wait times that have sometimes dogged SAR operations in Atlantic Canada.

"I was surprised after some of the news I was after hearing … I figured it was going to be a while before I got help, but I turned out to be wrong," Fudge said in an interview with CBC Radio's Fisheries Broadcast. "They reacted really quickly."

Fudge said with night falling, crew members expected a much longer wait as they took their life raft and provisions with them. They even set a fire on a smaller pan of ice near them, to help other boats find them.

Time was tight as the DLL Venture quickly took on water.

"It was only a matter of two or three minutes that the engine was under water," Fudge said.

"It's good to be safe, and to see the crew safe."