NORTHPORT, N.S. – A pair of boaters had a close call early in the evening of July 4 when they got caught up in strong offshore winds that left them stuck in the Northumberland Strait near Northport.
Roger LeBlanc, chief of the Tidnish Bridge Fire Department, said the department’s Zodiac boat was dispatched to the scene and brought the pair back to shore.
“They were OK,” LeBlanc said. “They were out in a small rubber boat and got caught in some strong offshore winds. The man said he was paddling like mad to get back to shore, but wasn’t making any progress.”
The fire chief said the rescue took place approximately a kilometre off shore, near the Northport Beach Provincial Park.
LeBlanc said the call was the department’s second of the evening. It was dispatched earlier to help a small sailboat that had capsized, but by the time they got to the scene the boat had been righted and everyone was OK.
He said another boat also responded to the incident and helped retrieve the couple and their boat.
Efforts to reach the couple have been unsuccessful so far, but people were watching the rescue from the shore. A plane circled the boaters until rescuers got to them.
One person, who was watching from his cottage, said he could tell something was going on, but it was too far away to see very much from his location. The circling plane made him realize something was going on.
The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax confirmed it responded to the distress call. It reported a provincial airlines flight that was on a mission for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans heard the radio call and responded, circling until rescuers arrived.
The Shinimicas Fire Department was dispatched by 911 and Tidnish Bridge’s department was asked to respond with its boat.
LeBlanc said his department responds to distress calls on occasion. It’s not something that happens often, he said, but he’s thankful to have the equipment to help when the need arises. He said the incident should send a message to anyone thinking of using a boat, dinghy or other piece of equipment at the shore.
“You need to be prepared for any event, you need to know the weather and have things like a lifejacket or PFD and some sort of communication device so you can call for help if something happens,” he said.