This article was originally published in the Winter 2018-19 edition of the Union Forum magazine.
A surfer trapped out to sea by raging waves was rescued by an FFAW-Unifor member and two members of the Canadian Merchant Service Guild on October 12 in St. Mary’s Bay. That evening around 4pm, the Coast Guard called on nearby vessels who may be able to reach two surfers that were in trouble on the cape shore near St. Vincent’s. The Beothic Spirit, a Teekay oil tanker, happened to be close by and Aiden Brown, Ryan Pilgrim and Adam Penton answered the call.
The three men prepared the fast rescue boat for launch, donned their survival suits, packed up extra suits and water, and left the tanker in search of the two surfers.
In strong winds and violent waves, the rescue boat travelled 17 miles from the ship searching for the surfers. As they neared the point in St. Vincent’s beach they spotted flashing lights from rescue vehicles on shore and began picking up sporadic signals from rescue aircraft above. One of the men then spotted someone sitting on a surfboard, but rough seas prevented a quick rescue.
Aiden, who is a Bosun on the Beothic Spirit and member of FFAW-Unifor, recalled the rescue mission. “The seas were rough, so we had to regroup as a team to discuss the consequences and ensure we weren’t putting ourselves at risk. But we also knew we couldn’t just leave the person out there,” he said.
They made the decision to move in for the rescue, and as they got within 100 feet of the surfer, they realized it was a young woman on the surfboard. The waves were high, but they managed to maneuver the surfer close to the rescue boat, and successfully got the female surfer aboard.
“As soon as we got her aboard, we moved back into deeper water where the waves weren’t as severe,” said Aiden.
With one surfer safely on board the rescue vessel, Brown, Pilgrim and Petten turned their attention to the second surfer that was still nowhere to be found.
“About ten minutes later, the Cormorant helicopter on scene from Gander contacted us via radio and let us know the second surfer had safely made it back to shore,” explained Aiden.
Cold and frightened, the surfer made it back to land safely thanks to the heroic actions of the Aiden, Ryan and Adam who answered the Coast Guard’s call and made the daring rescue that October evening.