Boat sank quickly, captain recalls

Eric McCarthy
Published on August 26, 2014

NORTH CAPE, P.E.I. -- A fishing boat captain estimates less than a minute elapsed early Monday morning from the time his boat’s high water alarm sounded and his engine stalled out.

Neguac, NB fisherman Philippe Breau said he hopes to return to the waters off North Cape, P.E.I. on Wednesday and dive down to inspect his fiberglass boat, the Marie Eve B. It sank in 20 meters of water on MacLeod’s Ledge, off North Cape, shortly after 2 a.m. Monday.

Breau’s three-member crew had already transferred over to another New Brunswick boat when the Marie Eve B’s engine stalled. He remained on the sinking vessel a few more minutes before joining his crew.

There were an estimated 85 boats fishing on the ledge that night, the opening night of the herring fishery, and fishing was good. Breau estimates he was still a few barrels short of a full load when his boat went into distress. A crewmember had started to shovel herring overboard in the back corner where water was gathering prior to the high water alarm sounding. He subsequently discharged his nets in an attempt to lighten the load.

Checking the engine hatch once the alarm sounded, Breau said he could see water, but it wasn’t yet touching his engine. The situation, however, became dire very quickly.

See a video of the sinking here

“I figure the weight of the fish caused the exhaust to snap,” he presented as a probable cause to the sinking, as that would allow water to rush in. He’s owned the vessel since it was built in 1995 and says it has been very well maintained.

He’s still consulting with his insurance company about his loss and is hoping to be able to salvage his vessel. “I want to get her back,” he said.

Because there were so many boats in close proximity, Brea said his crew was never in danger. He admits it would have been scarier if the sinking had occurred later, during his 48-kilometer sail back to his homeport, when boats would have been spread out.

The boat he transferred to had only started to catch herring so he and his crew continued fishing and did not get home until 11:30 a.m. Monday.

While he won’t be participating in the herring fishery again this year, Breau said he will likely have to borrow or lease a vessel while he exercises his rock crab permit.