Shipwrecked man's wallet found years later — by same ship that rescued him

John Allen Baker's wallet sat at the bottom of the North Atlantic for four years — until a familiar trawler hauled it up with some Arctic surf clams.

Fishing captain's wallet went down with his ship, but was recovered by a trawler 4 years later

Capt. John Baker's wallet went down with his ship, the Gentle Lady, on Dec. 22, 2013. (Submitted by Dave MacKay)

Four years ago, Capt. John Allen Baker lost his ship — and his wallet — to the bottom of the North Atlantic. 

It was Dec. 22, 2013, when the fisherman from Canso, N.S., realized that the Gentle Lady wasn't going to make it. Its load of sea cucumbers had shifted too quickly, causing the ship to lean over and water to pour onto the deck.

Baker and his three crew members darted for a life-raft and watched the ship go down about 130 kilometres off the coast of Sable Island. 

The Gentle Lady is still lost to the sea, but thanks to another trawler, Baker's wallet has risen from the depths. 

It was pulled up along with a catch of Arctic surf clams about 225 kilometres off the coast of Nova Scotia by the Ocean Concord, the same Clearwater trawler that saved Baker and his crew four years ago. 

"This is like Halloween. It's freaky. It's just weird," said Baker.

Abandon ship 

Baker's wallet was the farthest thing from his mind when he was struggling aboard his sinking vessel. He sent off a mayday, which didn't work, so the crew decided to abandon ship. 

Baker had left his wallet, which held the usual cards and a couple of family mementoes, on his bedside table by the window. 

Baker poses in front of a photo of the Gentle Lady, which sank four years ago. (Submitted by John Baker)

"I wasn't even thinking about my wallet at that time. I was thinking about getting those men in a life-raft so everybody's safe," he said. 

The four men drifted in the ocean for the next 6½ hours waiting for help. 

And for the next four years, the wallet was lost under about 55 metres of water.

That is, until Capt. Kevin Swimm and the crew of the Ocean Concord pulled it up earlier this month. 

A crew member found an expired driver's licence inside, but Swimm was reluctant to call.

"It could have been someone who perished at sea, and I thought maybe the loved ones would want it back," he said. 

Swimm called his sister-in-law, who used to live in Canso, and before long they'd tracked Baker down.

The wallet held cards, ID and a couple gifts from Baker's family, including a medal of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travel. (Submitted by Dave MacKay)

"It's just luck. Being in the right place at the right time to recover stuff," said Swimm, who wasn't on board the Ocean Concord in 2013 before he became captain. 

Baker's wallet also happened to be recovered on the Ocean Concord's last trip at sea before it retires after a 30-year career. 

Unfinished business 

It's the kind of "incredible" coincidence that Maura Swim, Swimm's sister-in-law, can't believe (the family names are spelled differently).

She's been sharing the story with anyone who will listen. 

"For me, it almost seems like maybe the ship had some unfinished business and she went back for what she left behind, which was the wallet," said Swim, who now lives in northern New Brunswick.

'It's just strange that I would get it back,' says Baker. (Submitted by Dave Mackay)

The Ocean Concord is expected to arrive back on shore at the end of October. Baker said that if he's not at sea himself, he'll be there to pick up his long-lost wallet.

There are a couple of family keepsakes he's looking forward to seeing again, including a medal of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travel. 

The wallet, though, has done enough travelling.

Baker plans to display it on a wall in his house, somewhere he can look at it and be reminded of the day his crew made it safely to shore. 

"It's just strange that I would get it back," he said. "Doesn't deserve to be used. I'll save it forever."

About the Author

Emma Smith


Emma Smith is a journalist from B.C. who has covered rural issues and Indigenous communities. Before joining CBC Nova Scotia in 2017, she worked as the editor of a community newspaper. Have a story idea to send her way? Email

With files from CBC's Mainstreet