Five men are safe after spending a harrowing half-hour in the cold water of a Nova Scotia lake Monday night.

Cory Belliveau told CBC News he was one of five men who were on a 16-foot boat on Great Pubnico Lake when it began to take on water.

"I knew there was nobody on the lake or anything so my main concern was to try to keep my phone as dry as possible so I could call 911," he said Tuesday.

"Everyone was trying to stay as calm as possible and stay all together. We didn't really dare to take off swimming because if someone would've got a cramp or something, the water was too cold to try to save yourself, plus someone else."

Gordon Amiro, chief of the West Pubnico Fire Department, said the men used a cellphone to call for help at about 9:20 p.m.

He said three boats headed out to try to find the men. Two rescuers put on survival suits and were ready to wade into the water, but they were told a Cormorant helicopter was only minutes away.

The Halifax search-and-rescue co-ordination centre said the helicopter hoisted the five men out of the water just before 10 p.m.

The men were taken to the hospital in Yarmouth and treated for hypothermia.

Belliveau said four of the men were submerged in the water. He said it was cold but the men were able to keep their spirits up knowing rescue crews were on the way.

"We just all kept talking with each other to keep everyone's morale high and tried to stay as warm as possible," he said.

Belliveau said he used a flashlight application on his iPhone to signal the emergency officials.

Flashlight as beacon

"The guys at the fire department put some boats in the water and the boats got in the water at the same time as the helicopter was coming in," he said.

"I was shining my flashlight from my phone and the whole gang could see it, I guess."

Amiro said the light helped direct the rescuers.

"They were shining their light towards us and we were shining ours towards them, and then when they saw the helicopter come they shone it in the air [and] that helped them to find them," he told CBC News.

Amiro said he doesn't know why the men were out on the lake, though he suspects they were working on one of the many hunting camps in the area. He said a boat is the only way to get to many of the camps.

Amiro said there have been many rescues on the lake.

"The thing is Pubnico Lake has no navigation and you've got to guess your way at night especially," he said.

Amiro commends the rescue teams for their work Monday night in the cold.

"Some of these guys know [the lake] like the back of their hands and they just went to it and because of the light they knew where they were. But when they came back their clothes were all full of ice from the spray that would come over the boat," he said.

The boat was swamped and grounded on a bar that juts into the lake.

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