The Atlantic Destiny, a 143-foot offshore scallop trawler, was 130 nautical miles south of Nova Scotia in March of 2021 when fire broke out on board. As a Mayday call went out just after 7 p.m., 30-knot winds and freezing spray made conditions unforgiving. Even after the fire was out, the vessel was in grave danger. It had lost power while adrift in 15-foot seas and was taking on water. The 31 crew members on the ship were at the mercy of the violent ocean.
In Halifax, the Joint Rescue Coordination Center immediately sent help. A CH-149 Cormorant helicopter and a CC-130 Hercules transport aircraft were dispatched from a nearby Canadian forces base, along with the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Cape Roger. Fishing vessels in the vicinity were also alerted, but they weren’t able to offer aid as conditions were too rough.
It was no easy job for pilots in the helicopter to maneuver near the powerless Atlantic Destiny, with its masts, rigging, cranes and cables swinging wildly. The helicopter crew managed to hoist six passengers from the boat and get them to safety at a care center in southwestern Nova Scotia, but en route the helicopter experienced a mechanical malfunction. The crew could not return to the scene, thereby complicating an already complicated rescue mission.
Fortunately, Canadian forces had some back up: the U.S. Coast Guard. Shortly after the Mayday was picked up, Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, sent two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters to the scene.
“Without them we would not have been able to get every person off of that boat,” said Capt. Jeremy Appolloni, the pilot on the Canadian Cormorant helicopter, in an interview with Saltwire. “The international support was invaluable.”
Through the night, 27 crew members were lifted off of the trawler and brought to safety. Not everyone aboard was rescued by helicopter. Four crew and two search-and-rescue technicians had stayed with the vessel. Cape Roger steamed into the storm all night; the following morning, it took the remaining passengers aboard. At 10:36 a.m. on March 3, Atlantic Destiny sank with no one on board.
The heroic efforts of the Coasties who participated in this rescue were recently recognized at “New York Salutes the Coast Guard,” a event hosted by the Coast Guard Foundation to highlight the service of U.S. Coast Guard personnel in the Northeast. In a speech to guests gathered at Chelsea Piers in New York City, Coast Guard Foundation President Susan Ludwig reminded everyone of the sacrifices these professionals make. “The brave men and women of the Coast Guard are often called upon to act under challenging conditions,” she said, and applauded them for their dedication. I too offer my sincere thanks to the Coasties, for keeping all of us–professional and recreational boaters alike—safer on the water. Jeanne Craig, Editor, JCraig@aimmedia.com
This article was originally published in the December 2022 issue.