'It was pretty rocky': Summerford sealers safe at home after dramatic rescue at sea

The skipper of a sealing crew that had to abandon ship Sunday off the northeast coast of Newfoundland says he has never seen such a combination of high winds and heavy seas. 

"I've been in some hard breezes of wind … but I was never in nothing like that before," Brian Anstey told CBC Radio's The Broadcast on Monday.

Anstey and his crew, now home in Summerford on New World Island, are lucky to be alive.  

They had to jump off their fishing boat, Northern Provider, one-by-one on Sunday and be plucked to safety by a search and rescue helicopter hovering overhead.

Anstey was the last to leave the boat, keeping it as steady as he could in 60-knot winds and eight-metre swells that looked like "mountains" of water.

"They [the rescue crews] couldn't take us off the boat, it was too rough. The boat was going up in the air and twisting about too bad."

'Dirty weather' right from the start

Anstey said he and his crew left from Carmanville on Feb, 27 to go sealing, but the wind came up that morning and by Thursday it was so bad they decided to head back to shore.

They didn't get far. Anstey said the "dirty weather" with its raging wind and heavy swells kept them stuck for two days, with only a small patch of ice as shelter.

"The little bit of ice was giving us a break from the wind and the lop," he said, but the wind blew harder through Saturday night into Sunday morning. 

"We were in danger. The boat — we didn't know if she was going to capsize or not ... [We were] sliding around onboard ... it was pretty rocky," Anstey said.

"It was a really bad weekend for we."

Called for help

Anstey said he radioed for a coast guard ship but was told it would take eight hours, so they asked for a helicopter.

Having to jump in the water to be rescued was bad enough, but he said they were also told they were a "first" for the rescuers.

"They never done it before, that crew ... They usually takes them off the boat," he said. "It took while to get the first fella."

Things went smoothly, however, as the others were hoisted to safety, while he tried to control the boat. 

"I had to keep steaming her into the wind ... then let it go on and jump in myself."

With everyone safe, Anstey can joke about the misadventure. "Nothing now, you're in out of it," he said.

The boat, though, is still adrift at sea, floating towards land in winds that were still too high Monday to put someone onboard.

The forecast was bad into Wednesday.

"We gotta sit tight now and hope for the best," Anstey said. "You can replace the boat but you can't replace nobody's life."