Nova Scotia

University students rescue 8 from sailboat off Lunenburg

A Canadian Coast Guard zodiac was dispatched to the scene early Wednesday morning.

Vessel ran aground on island after sail became caught in propeller

Jessie Bennett, Alex Mann and Thomas Dauphinee are the three-person crew who responded to the distress calls early Wednesday morning. (Emily Latimer/CBC)

A group of three university students working for the Canadian Coast Guard for the summer rescued eight people from a sailboat that ran aground on an island near Lunenburg, N.S., early Wednesday morning.

Marc Ouellette, a regional supervisor with the Halifax Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, said the initial report came in at 3:20 a.m.

The 19½-metre sailboat drifted into Cross Island, near the entrance to Lunenburg harbour, after a sail went overboard and was caught in the boat's propeller.

Ouellette said a Mahone Bay Inshore Rescue zodiac, which is used in a summer program employing university students, was dispatched. The three students on board were able to rescue the eight crew members.

"They start [on the] May long weekend, so they've only been operational for less than a week now," Oullette said of the students.

The crew suited up and got to the dock within 10 minutes to begin carrying out the rescue. (Emily Latimer/CBC)

He said the boat is part of the coast guard's inshore rescue program. There are three students on each vessel, including a team lead who is often a returning student.

Alex Mann is the north crew coxswain. It's his fourth summer in the program. 

He said the crew was ready to respond thanks to the training they've received.

"You don't necessarily expect it, but of course, you're ready for it. And you know, it keeps us busy. It's good," Mann said. 

"We don't like to see it, obviously. We want people to be as safe as possible, but it's nice to put that training to use."

Alex Mann is the north crew coxswain for the Mahone Bay Inshore Rescue boat. (Emily Latimer/CBC)

Jessie Bennett is a second-year deckhand who was awoken around 3:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning from chatter on the marine radio.

The crew suited up, got to the dock within 10 minutes and started heading for Cross Island.

Bennett said the rescue was difficult because the weather wasn't great, but being adaptable is key.

"We prepare for certain situations and that wasn't one that we've really prepared for," Bennett said. "So, there's a lot of transferring different skills we've learned and [we] try to apply that to that unique situation."

Bill Flower says the Esprit de Corps IV vessel is now stranded on Cross Island in the mouth of the Lunenburg Harbour. (Submitted by Bill Flower)

It's Thomas Dauphinee's first year as a summer student. He said responding to a call so soon after training boosted his confidence.

"Everything sort of clicked. Everything went well. Alex took charge, told us what to do and everyone just responded," Dauphinee said.

"The communication was great. It really showed that our training really showed off well."

A tugboat called the Salvage Monarch was also on scene and the people rescued from the sailboat were transferred from the zodiac.

Ouellette said the sailing vessel was coming back to Canada from Bermuda.

The boat is still stranded on the island.

"There was a significant hole on the starboard side of the vessel, so they abandoned and there was no attempt to refloat the vessel,"  Ouellette said.

He said the recovery of the vessel is the responsibility of the owner, but the coast guard will monitor it from an environmental perspective.

In a statement issued late Thursday afternoon, the skipper of the Esprit de Corps IV, Maxime Grimard, said his team is "doing whatever we can to have the ship removed from the island" and salvage equipment.

The statement said gale-force winds and the loss of use of a propeller led the vessel to run aground.

With files from CBC's Information Morning and Emily Latimer


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