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RCMP guard the wharf in Meteghan, N.S., on Wednesday evening. ((CBC))

The captain of a fishing vessel is missing after his dragger sank Wednesday in rough seas off Yarmouth, N.S.

Three other men who were on the Pubnico Explorer — out of Meteghan, N.S. — were rescued from a life-raft after the 17-metre fishing boat took in water.

Maj. James Simiana of Halifax Regional Search and Rescue said the crew sent out a distress call at 10:15 a.m. when the boat started taking on water about 30 kilometres northwest of Yarmouth.

The crew reported they were unable to determine where the water was coming from. The main bilge pump was unserviceable and the standby electrical pump couldn't keep up with the water coming in, the crew said.

Simiana said that at 11:22 a.m., the rescue centre began to receive a signal from the Pubnico Explorer's emergency beacon, which is designed to float to the surface.

At 11:30 a.m., a coast guard vessel out of Westport in Brier Island arrived at the scene to find a yellow life-raft on the ocean but no sign of the boat.

Simiana said three fishermen were taken aboard the cutter and back in Meteghan by 5 p.m.

"All … are in good condition," he said.

A Hercules aircraft and Cormorant helicopter from CFB Greenwood that were assisting in the search for the captain had to be called down on Wednesday night because of snow squalls and strong winds that reduced visibility, Simiana said.

The plan is to relaunch the aircraft at first light on Thursday.

The coast guard ship Edward Cornwallis was to remain at the scene overnight to search for the captain, who was believed to be wearing a full immersion suit.

The search team was joined for a few hours on Wednesday evening by a United States Coast Guard Falcon jet, which has infrared capabilities.

Simiana said waves were four to six metres high and winds were strong when the Pubnico Explorer sank. Many lobster boats stayed tied up on Wednesday because of the weather.

Hubert Saulnier, a local fisherman who knows some of the men on the Pubnico Explorer, said the captain did his job.

"He's supposed to make sure that the crew is safe before he leaves the vessel himself," Saulnier said. "He's supposed to stay at the wheel, he's supposed to stay at the radio, contact the coast guard, assess what the situation is while the crew gets the life-raft ready, survival suits, and they are the first ones to disembark from the boat.

"The captain did his job 100 per cent from what I see and what we've heard so far."

Saulnier said that although the weather was not ideal Wednesday, he did not think it was a major factor in the Pubnico Explorer taking on water.

"Anything can happen," he said. "You got so much stuff underneath the boat that can let go. But a vessel like that would have been able to take those weather conditions if everything would have been normal."