Eight Central American sailors stranded in Halifax for three weeks have flown home.

The men boarded an early flight Monday.

Helen Glenn, manager of the not-for-profit Mission to Seafarers, led efforts to assist the men after their vessel was impounded in Nova Scotia.

At 5 a.m. Monday she had an emotional send off. "I'm trying to keep the tears back. It's been very emotional for us. The whole community has embraced this cause. We're delighted to be sending these guys home."

She called them humble and resilient.

Excited, but sad to leave Halifax

As they prepared to board their plane, the men expressed their gratitude and relief.

First mate Pedro Andrade thanked the Mission to Seafarers for treating them like family and supporting them for the last few weeks.

"I'm very excited because I'm going back home. We're very glad to be going back home, but we're sad because we met some really great people here," he said.

He plans to return to sailing, but not with the same company.

The crewmembers of the Craig Trans, a Bolivian-flagged tugboat, said they were on their way to Montreal when a winter storm forced them to find shelter in Halifax on Dec. 18.

After a routine check by Transport Canada, the tug was impounded in Halifax Harbour for numerous safety violations including issues with navigation equipment and faulty escape hatches.

The men lacked the money to get home on their own and the tug owners did not help. People from across Canada chipped in with money and Aeroplan miles to get the men home.

The crew members — seven men from Honduras and one man from El Salvador — had lived in squalor on the boat since being stranded. There were dead cockroaches on the floor, in the drawers and in the cooking area, and live cockroaches could be seen darting around the ship.