Nova Scotia

Miss Ally crew remembered as porch lights left on in Nova Scotia

Mary Hopkins left her porch light on last night in memory of all fishers who've lost their lives at sea — including her son Joel and the rest of the Miss Ally crew.

'You think about the day, and what we all went through,' says Mary Hopkins

Mary Hopkins is asking people to leave their porch lights on in memory of her son, Joel, and the other crew members of the Miss Ally. (Submitted by Mary Hopkins)

Mary Hopkins left her porch light on last night in memory of all fishers who've lost their lives at sea — including her son Joel and the rest of the Miss Ally crew.

It's been two years since that day, when five Nova Scotia fishermen didn't come home after their vessel ran into trouble during a storm. They'd left from the wharf five days earlier to fish for halibut.

"Of course this is the time of the year that … it comes back full force," Hopkins said. 

"You think about the day, and what we all went through. And you think about our sons and what they possibly went through."

Joel Hopkins and four other Woods Harbour fishermen — Billy Jack Hatfield, Katlin Nickerson, Steven Cole Nickerson and Tyson Townsen — died when the Miss Ally capsized off southwest Nova Scotia on Feb. 17, 2013.

Their bodies were never found.

"There's so much here that reminds you of all of them, from the fishing in their blood, … [to] the wharf. And they were all hunters, so when you hear or see camouflage you think of them," said Mary Hopkins.

"When you hear a dirt bike go by, when you go by their houses, it's just a constant reminder and it's bittersweet."

Act of hope and love

Hopkins turned to Facebook recently to ask people to keep their porch lights on for four nights between Feb. 15 and Feb. 18, in memory of her son and his fellow crew members.

Even the Seal Island Light Museum beacon will shine in Barrington.

Communities in southwestern Nova Scotia lit their porch lights as the search for the Miss Ally crew intensified two years ago. Hopkins said it was an act of hope, love and recognition that continued last year. 

She wants to keep it going.

"So many people gravitated to it and said, 'Yes, we think of them, we think of them all the time,'" Hopkins said.

"I have friends in the States and some of the boys have gone out west and they're putting their lights on, so it has grown a little bit since last year."

While family and friends continue to heal, the sea remains a dangerous place.

The Poseidon Princess ran into trouble off southwest Nova Scotia roughly two weeks ago. The four people on board managed to get their immersion suits on when they realized something was wrong.

'It's there all the time'

The fishing boat sank but the crew survived.

"You just thank God that they were found," Hopkins said. "What a wonderful outcome for their families."

Today, Hopkins's husband and two sons still take to the water to make a living.

Hopkins said she knows community fishermen have talked about safety suits: how they're cumbersome and hard to put on quickly, but also how they should try to make sure they can do it. 

"They're hearty men, they go out now, they're independent, they don't wear their life jackets. They just think about fishing," she said.

"You live in a fishing village and … it's [the risk] up in your face. It's there all the time."

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