Veteran local fisherman Roger Brisson is being hailed as a hero tonight after the morning rescue of two crew members who were thrown into frigid Atlantic waters when their clam shell boat capsized.
The two-man crew of the Providenza, a 38-foot work boat from Gloucester, was plucked to safety by Brisson's 20-foot fishing vessel, Blue Dagger, also from Gloucester, at 9:45 a.m. about a mile out of Gloucester harbor, and about a half-mile from the Eastern Point breakwater. Neither crew member was seriously hurt in the incident.
Brisson said he usually departs from Beacon Marina before 6 a.m. on a day when he goes fishing for cod, but this morning he was running about three hours late; the delay placed him first on the scene of the distressed vessel, which apparently capsized around 9:30.
"I was headed 10 miles out when I see something kind of weird, what looked like a big life raft," Brisson, 62, said in a phone interview from his apartment in Danvers. "As I got closer, I saw it was a boat upside down."
Brisson said he immediately threw a rope to the two, barely-moving men; once both men were safely aboard, Brisson placed a May Day alert to United States Coast Guard Station Gloucester at 9:45 a.m. A Coast Guard rescue boat was dispatched and local Emergency Medical Services were notified.
Brisson's Blue Dagger arrived at Coast Guard Station Gloucester just before 10 a.m., where the two men were then transported by awaiting EMS to Addison Gilbert Hospital. Both were treated for hypothermia and released. Neither man was identified by Coast Guard officials or by Intershell International Corp., the Gloucester-based company that had contracted for the boat to dispose of the shells from shucked clams at sea.
A 47-foot Coast Guard rescue boat remained on scene throughout the afternoon to monitor the capsized vessel and alert the boating public to the navigation hazard. Coast Guard Station Gloucester Commanding Officer Chris Sparkman said the Coast Guard would investigate the incident, which took place in 2-to-4 foot seas and calm winds.
The men were headed out to sea to dispose of the shucked surf clam shells in 100-foot waters when it somehow became unstable and overturned, said Intershell spokesman Monty Rome. Rome dispatched a vessel to tow the Providenza back into the harbor around 5 p.m., where a barge and crane were then expected to turn the vessel right side up.
For more coverage of this story, look to tomorrow's print and online editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucestertimes.com.
Jonathan L'Ecuyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.