On Sunday, the Canadian Coast Guard rescued the crew of the seal-hunting boat Northern Provider off of St. John's, Nova Scotia. The next day, the Coast Guard had to board and secure the abandoned vessel, which was still motoring ahead at three to five knots towards shore.
On March 5, while headed to the port of Carmanville, the crew of the Provider found themselves caught in a growing storm, with winds of up to 60 knots and wave height of 23-25 feet. They took shelter in the lee of a small patch of ice (visible in the video above), which dampened the severity of the waves. Eventually, fearing that the vessel was in danger of capsizing, skipper Brian Anstey decided to put out a distress call. The Canadian Coast Guard's Halifax rescue coordination center dispatched a military helicopter, a Hercules SAR aircraft and three Coast Guard vessels to respond.
The conditions on scene were too severe for a helicopter evacuation from the fishing boat's deck, said spokesman Larry Crann, deputy superintendent of the Canadian Coast Guard’s Environmental Response Program.
“In those conditions . . . the Canadian Armed Forces helicopter couldn’t rescue the guys from the ship. So in order to get them off they had don their survival suits and jump into the water," he told The Telegram.
Frank Brown, one of the five crewmembers rescued from the Provider, told the Toronto Sun that “it was like a scene from the movie 'The Perfect Storm,’ but with a better ending."
However, it wasn't quite over. “The last guy to leave had to leave the vessel running so it wouldn’t drift back on to him when he jumped over," said Crann. At the time of the rescue, the Provider was about 80 nm off the coast. With her engines still running and in gear, she was making three to five knots ahead, and by the following day, she was just 15 nm away from shore – raising the risk of a grounding and the release of up to 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel.
Conditions on scene had improved overnight, with winds at 25-30 knots and waves at 10-15 feet. The cutter Cygnus was following the abandoned vessel, and when the seas had calmed enough for safe operations, she deployed a small boat team to board the Provider and shut off her engines. The Cygnus did not take the vessel in tow, but on Tuesday, another fishing boat headed out to meet the Provider and bring her back into port.