Saturday, September 25, 2010

Scallop diving crew saved from Reversing Falls

Rescue: Small tow-boat from north end pulls sailboat with five people to shore after motor dies in the worst possible spot


SAINT JOHN - The Bright Star's engine could have died anywhere between here and Grand Manan.

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Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-Journal

Herb Duncan speaks to a reporter with his son Doug Duncan looking on, after their sailboat Bright Star was towed to safety from the Reversing Falls.

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Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-Journal

Bright Star is towed after the sailboat's engine died. Owner Herb Duncan says the attention wasn't worth all the fuss.

But just before 1 p.m. Tuesday, the 38-foot sail boat stalled right in the middle of the Reversing Falls, just metres from its destination at the Saint John Power Boat Club.

With the tide on the way out, but the force of the Bay of Fundy still pushing in, the sailboat and its five-man crew began to spin in circles.

"You just sit there and you're at the mercy of the falls," said Herb Duncan, shortly after making it safely to shore.

"We weren't going out and we weren't going in, we were just sort of sitting there, spinning around," said Duncan, who has owned the boat for 35 years.

Duncan used his cell phone to call the boat club for a tow. At the same time, someone had called 9-1-1, and the Coast Guard and fire department's water rescue unit were dispatched to the scene.

Two fishermen in a small boat tried to help, but Duncan told them to cut adrift, for fear they would be sucked in, too.

Bernie Ritchie, Brian Reid, and his golden retriever, Tucker, left the north end boat club in a 16-foot tow-boat to drag the large sailboat to safety.

"It was rough and windy and sloppy," Ritchie said after the rescue. "And we were in a little boat and they weigh a lot, so it was hard to get going. Plus, you're going up hill."

But the smaller boat managed to drag the Bright Star in. The Coast Guard rescue as well as the fire department's rescue boat accompanied them in case there were any problems.

District fire chief Peter Saab said the crew was lucky. Any water rescue at the Reversing Falls can lead to critical issues.

"There are a number of perils there - whether it be the rocks, which were on both sides - or so much water that you could capsize the boat," he said.

The men were just returning home from a weekend trip to Grand Manan. They had left Friday to go scallop diving, and the diesel motor seized up on Saturday.

They decided to head back Monday but were held up by high winds. On Tuesday the wind helped push the boat back to Saint John in record time, Duncan said.

After getting through the harbour - passing three cruise ships - Duncan put the outboard to the side, he said.

"Everything was fine until we got beside the mill," he said. "Then the motor said, 'Your trip hasn't been exciting enough, so I'm going to die.'"

No one was hurt, and Duncan doesn't think it was worth all the fuss.

Still, he can't believe that the motor cut out where it did.

"It could die in the harbour, it could die in the bay, it could die almost anywhere," he said.

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