Crews from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Rockport harbormaster’s office pulled two fishermen from the waters of the Atlantic late Friday night after their 65-foot fishing vessel took on water and sank roughly 3 miles off Rockport’s Thacher Island.
U.S. Coast Guard officials Sunday declined to identify the fishermen, who had been working aboard the 48-year-old dragger Terra Nova when the boat suddenly began taking on water sometime around 8:30 p.m. Friday.
As the boat was going down, the fishing crew members abandoned ship, according to Coast Guard reports. But a helicopter based out of Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod was able to locate the fishermen in the water, lift one into the copter and transport him to Massachusetts General Hospital, while the second fisherman was pulled into the Rockport harbormaster’s boat, then taken to Coast Guard Station Gloucester and transported from there to Addison Gilbert Hospital.
There remained no word Sunday regarding the condition of the fisherman who was taken by the Coast Guard to Mass. General; Rockport Harbormaster Scott Story said Sunday that the fisherman he transported to Coast Guard Station Gloucester was “conscious, alert, oriented — and very happy to see me.” But there was also no update regarding his condition as of Sunday afternoon.
In addition to Coast Guard Station Gloucester, Coast Guard Sector Boston and the Rockport harbormasters, the rescue response and effort also included a crew from Coast Guard Station Gloucester, and what Story and the Coast Guard called a number of “Good Samaritan volunteer fishermen who came in to help.”
Story said that the Terra Nova — built in 1965 as the fishing vessel Little Infant, and one of the few remaining wooden-hulled draggers remaining in the Cape Cod-based fishing fleet, records show — had already gone down when rescuers were combing the roughly 53-degree waters where the vessel had sent its emergency notification.
Story said, however, he was first able to see a large storage cooler in the water.
“I started to check that out just as the ’copter turned to light up the area,” he said. “And when it lit up the area, that’s when I could see the second guy in the water.”
Within minutes, Story and others had reached the man through choppy 4-to-6-foot seas and pulled him into the harbormaster’s vessel. The men had been in the 53-degree water for more than an hour, Coast Guard reports indicated, but Story noted that they had donned emergency immersion suits before leaving the sinking Terra Nova.
“You can’t say enough about all of the people who responded and helped,” said Story — adding that, while en route to the Gloucester Coast Guard Station, he kept turning and looking at the fisherman, whom rescuers had bundled in warm garments.
“I kept turning around to talk to him, and he just kept giving me the thumbs-up with a big smile on his face,” Story said.
Records show the Terra Nova was owned by Richard C. Merrill of South Wellfleet, but there was no indication as to whether he was one of the fishermen on board Friday night. He could not be reached Sunday.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard report, watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Boston first received notification at approximately 8:30 p.m. Friday that the Terra Nova was taking on water with two people aboard.
The crew reported 6 feet of water in the forward cabin of the vessel and indicated that the onboard pumps were not able to keep up with the flooding, Coast Guard officials said.
The Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew located the Terra Nova crew members in the water and relayed the position to the Coast Guard Station Gloucester 47-foot Motor Lifeboat crew. The Coast Guard crew then hoisted the first Terra Nova crew member into the helicopter and took him to Mass. General.
“A lot of teamwork and moving parts go into a case like this, so it was good to see both fishermen found quickly and given the medical attention they needed,” said Lt. Joe Klinker, 1st Coast Guard District public affairs officer.
“These fishermen, throughout the Northeast, play such an important role in our maritime community,” Klinker said. “That’s why we’re out there on patrol every day and we extend our best wishes to the two rescued tonight.”