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Fishermen rescued from Frobisher Bay, headed home

Their boat was taking on water.

The Atlantic Charger, shown above in Port Saunders with its builders and crew, comes with twin trawls, the first of its kind for a Newfoundland vessel. Owner Brad Watkins says twin trawls have been proven to reduce fuel consumption significantly.  — Photo by Adam Randell/The Norther Pen

Within 10 minutes of placing their initial call for help, just before noon (ADT) on Monday, a team of nine fishermen aboard the Atlantic Charger were climbing into their liferaft.

The crew spent hours on the rough sea near the mouth of Frobisher Bay, before being rescued by the fishing vessel Paamiut, out of Greenland at roughly 10:30 p.m., according to Maj. Rhonda Stevens, the officer in charge of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) in Halifax.

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On the launch of the Atlantic Charger

The Atlantic Charger crew are now on their way home to Newfoundland and Labrador, having spent the night on the Paamiut. They were transferred this morning to the fishing vessel Katsheshuk II, heading for Harbour Grace.

Stevens credited the fishermen for their actions for facilitating the rescue.

“They were extremely well prepared. It was clear they’ve obviously trained and were very skilled, in case an emergency situation came up and that was key for their successful rescue,” she said. “Especially in the North and with the water conditions and weather conditions of yesterday — but yes, having the proper survival equipment of their immersion suits and their liferaft and they executed their plan properly when the time came.”

A maritime patrol aircraft, on its way to Iqaluit, was the first aircraft on scene after the distress call. They were asked by the JRCC to participate in the rescue.

The plane spotted flares set off by the crew, she said.

“Shortly after, a search and rescue Hercules (plane) from Greenwood was on scene and was able to drop a radio to them,” Stevens said. It was roughly 2:30 Atlantic time. The Hercules then dropped a bundle of supplies for the crew.

The cargo ship MV Arctic, a bulk ore carrier, arrived on scene next — about half an hour before the fishing vessel that ultimately pulled the crew aboard.

“(The Arctic) showed up beforehand, but was having difficulty conducting the rescue just because of the large size of the vessel and, as well, with the sea conditions,” Stevens explained.

The crew was not plucked from the liferaft by helicopter rescue given the distance from base.

“They were quite out sea and up in the Arctic, so it does take a bit of logistics to get the helicopter up there because she has to refuel multiple times. So she was on route — the Cormorant out of Gander and we had a Cormorant out of Greenwood (N.S.) as well — but the vessels that were up in the Arctic were able to get on scene first.”

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