Nfld. & Labrador

Fishermen in La Scie eye return to water to catch crab, after 2 boats stuck in ice return safely

Fishermen say they are not deterred by the recent mishaps involving thick sea ice that caused one vessel to sink and several others to get stuck off the coast of Newfoundland's Baie Verte Peninsula.

Captain of boat that sank questions why icebreaker didn't come for assistance

Justin Giles says he hopes to get out and catch some crab if they wind cooperates and helps move the thick sea ice. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Fishermen say they are not deterred by the recent mishaps involving thick sea ice that caused one vessel to sink and several others to get stuck off the coast of Newfoundland's Baie Verte Peninsula.

"Time is getting short for crab, right? They got the season extended now until July 15, good job they have, I say," said Justin Giles.

"I'm hoping to get out in the next couple of days again if the wind would mind to go off. So hopefully we'll be able to do it."

Thursday marked the safe return of two fishing vessels that were stuck in ice, a day after the crew of another boat had to be airlifted to safety after the vessel started to sink.

Five boats left La Scie on Tuesday to fish for crab, but ran into trouble with the thick ice pack almost immediately after leaving the harbour.

The Shawn and Evan, one of two boats that were stuck in ice off the Baie Verte Peninsula for two days, is seen safely docked in La Scie harbour. Both vessels returned to the dock around 11 a.m. Thursday. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

One of those five boats returned to shore without incident on Tuesday and another, the Avalon Princess, started taking on water Wednesday and the crew had to be rescued by helicopter. 

The captain of the vessel told CBC he believes the boat is lost.

One boat managed to return to La Scie Wednesday night, and then late Thursday morning the remaining two boats docked as well, ending the 48-hour ordeal.

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen was originally going to assist the boats, but was called off after a flyover showed arctic ice that was two metres thick and spanning 12-13 miles out to sea.

"If we try to bring that ice breaker in there now we're going to be doing more harm than good," said Trevor Hodgson, Supt. of Canadian Coast Guard Atlantic Ice Operations.

"Our ice breaker would push that and could easily push it at speed into these vessels as we're trying to maneuver around them."

'Just waiting it out'

Hodgson said the coast guard had been monitoring the situation with the two remaining boats, and the plan was to wait for the wind to change to loosen the ice pack so the vessels could return to shore.

With southerly winds in the forecast, he was cautiously optimistic that conditions would improve and allow the fishing crews to return their vessels to La Scie harbour.

The last two fishing boats that were stuck in the ice near La Scie were finally seen moving back towards land around 10:40 Thursday morning. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"Just waiting it out is about all you can do. There's nothing you can do to just push it out of the way," he said. "Unless you have a stronger vessel with more power you're not going to be able to do much with it."

I think they should have come in and tried to get us out of there, or brought us back in.- Dyson Sacrey

But the decision to call off the icebreaker is being questioned by Dyson Sacrey, the captain of the sunken Avalon Princess.

He thinks the Amundsen could have made it to the area without posing a risk to the fishing boats.

"I think they should have come in and tried to get us out of there, or brought us back in or whatever. I just don't see an ice breaker sitting around waiting for something to happen," he told the Central Morning Show on Thursday.

"We steamed out through it a nice ways, I mean four or five miles. We have just 400 horsepower. They have 4,000 horsepower."

'Trying to make a living'

One day after being airlifted from his sinking boat, Sacrey said he and the four crew didn't think the ice was bad enough for them to get stuck.

With the crab season slipping away as they wait for clear water, he said his crew felt they had to at least take a chance to try and start earning some money for the season.

Rescuers with the Royal Canadian Air Force with crew on the ice next to stuck fishing vessel Avalon Princess. All five crew of the boat had to be airlifted to safety on Wednesday. (Twitter/@JTFA_FOIA)

"We were trying to get out for a first trip because you've got men there that are trying to make a living," he said.

"We got one guy there with four kids, wanting to get out and make a few dollars. We've got another guy there with three kids. You try to bring their year around after a long old winter on unemployment. You try to help them however you can to get a week's pay."

One of five crew members of the Avalon Princess is airlifted from the sinking fishing boat Wednesday near La Scie. The boat became stuck in sea ice shortly after leaving La Scie to go crab fishing. (Twitter/@JTFA_FOIA)

With files from Colleen Connors, St. John's Morning Show and Central Morning Show