Miss Ally’s final voyage recalled

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Veteran Woods Harbour fisherman Sandy Stoddard recalls the Miss Ally’s final fishing trip. Kathy Johnson photo

By Kathy Johnson

It was with fair winds that Woods Harbour fisherman Sandy Stoddard left the Port LaTour wharf on Sunday, Feb. 10 bound for the fishing grounds along the Scotian Shelf.

“The weather was good,” said the veteran fisherman. “We had perfect weather for four or five days.”

Stoddard, aboard the Logan and Morgan, his son Chrisjon on the Benji and Sisters, as well as Katlin Nickerson and the crew of the Miss Ally were among the boats on the fishing grounds that week.  “Others were fishing to the east of us in an area known as the edge,” said Stoddard. “We were in the Gully. The Miss Ally was about 110 to 115 miles away to the southwest.”

As fishermen do, Stoddard kept an eye on weather forecasts during the trip, especially two low pressures- one that was forming along the U.S. eastern seaboard and the other coming across from the southern U.S.

With the forecast calling for the two fronts coming together and intensifying, Stoddard made the decision Saturday morning (Feb. 16) that he would haul his gear back that day and head for port the next morning in Arichat. “I called Chrisjon and then contacted Katlin to let him know what was going on,” said Stoddard.

“At that point Katlin confirmed to me that he was also going in after he got his gear back,” recalled Stoddard. “That night I called him and it was at that point that I learned that they couldn’t find their gear.”

The Miss Ally had lost use of the power inverter, used to power the bright deck lights and search lights by which fishermen work. Speaking with crewmate Joel Hopkins, the plan was for the Miss Ally to lay anchor that night and get the gear back in the morning, said Stoddard.

When Stoddard contacted the Miss Ally on Sunday morning (Feb. 17), the crew had found the gear and were hauling it in. “I called Katlin again at 6 that evening,” said Stoddard. “He was on his way to Sambro at that point and said the northwest wind had just struck.”

Stoddard stayed in contact with the Miss Ally until 10:40 p.m. “That was the last time I spoke with Katlin,” said Stoddard. At that point he was still en route to Sambro, and while not in any real trouble, had wanted to contact the coast guard to alert them that he was on the way in so they could track him, but the Miss Ally’s radio wasn’t working so Stoddard made the call.

Twenty-six minutes late the Miss Ally’s emergency locator beacon was activated about 120 kilometres south of Liverpool

“I don’t think at any point that he was in real trouble,” said Stoddard. “I think what happened, happened all at once.”

For Stoddard, the tragedy of the Miss Ally hits close to home. “I knew them all,” he said. “They were hard working, good young men just making a living.”

Billy Jack Hatfield was Stoddard’s second cousin. He called Katlin Nickerson, Cole Nickerson, Tyson Townsend and Joel Hopkins “my babies. I took them under my wing to help them out,” said Stoddard, sharing his knowledge of the fishing grounds with Katlin. “We communicated all the time,” he said.

“I have a lot of respect for Katlin,” said Stoddard. “He was an aggressive young man and he was good at what he did. If this was a world of sports he would be classified as the Sidney Crosby of the fishing industry. Any plant owner looking for a kid to skipper a boat, this is the kind of kid they would be looking for.” said Stoddard.

Reflecting over the capsizing of the Miss Ally, “There will be many people wondering what if,” said Stoddard. “The truth of the matter is the Miss Ally got caught in a storm.  The truth of the matter is that Katlin didn’t do anything different than any other skipper has done before. The truth of the matter is it’s going to be sad around here for a long time.”

Stoddard has logged 40 years in the commercial fishery. Like any businessman, Stoddard tries to make the best living that he can with the resources that he has. That means fishing lobster in December at the start of the season and switching to halibut and groundfish from January to March when lobster catches are slow. “This is our livelihood. This is our life,” said Stoddard. “As fishermen this is what we do.”

 

Geographic location: U.S., Woods Harbour, Port LaTour Sambro Arichat Liverpool

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  • Barbara Abboud
    March 06, 2013 - 20:11

    We loved reading this article. Is was so good to hear the true account of the story. Sandy Stoddard should be commended for getting the truth out to the public. My sister Joanne was so touched by this tragedy that she wrote a song which she and I and my brother in law will perform at a benefit being held for the families of the crew at Beacon United Church in Yarmouth at 7h00 Saturday, March 9th. The song is titled: That's What Fishermen Do. From all the videos that were made with pictures of the men and their families and the article written by Sandy, she was able to write a beautiful song which she will play on the piano accompanied by her husband Albert on guitar and myself on the drum. She and I will sing the ballad in harmony. Hopefully the event will be recorded so that those who were not able to make it can hear the whole concert at a later time. My sister and her husband lost their 20 year old son in a car accident 8 years ago. She has found that writing this song for the families and the men of the Ms. Ally has been very healing. We will also be singing the song that my brother in law wrote for his son Leopold the day after he died. Our prayers are with all the families of Katlin, Billy Jack,Tyson, Cole and Joel. May they rest in peace and may their families be comforted. Sincerely, Barbara Abboud (McLellan).

  • billy gould
    March 01, 2013 - 16:16

    I was a fisherman and I knowed lots of fishermen and still do I kept track of all the updates of the miss ally as best I could hoping and praying the miss ally crew would be found safe and sound I knowed chances was low that they would be found but I still never gave up hoping and praying because their was always a chance that they could be found alive , miracles do happen unfortunately not this time , I had a few close calls myself fishing but always right back at it the next day or when we got another boat when we lost one , it was 30 years ago today me and my father and my 3 brothers and one of my father brothers lost our boat we were on the ice flows waiting for another boat to come find us it happened so fast that it was all over in less than 2 minutes from the time the ice started squatting our boat up until she was gone out of sight under water we had no time for nothing just to jump on the ice our boat was 65 ft long it just goes to show how fast things can happen maybe the ecetronics went out on the boat before they got in real trouble and couldn't radio for help no one well never know but im sure those 5 men gave a fight to try to save that boat if they had time I might be 100s of miles from woods harbour here in northern newfoundland but I wants to let u all know that my heart goes out to the captain and crew of the miss ally and their familys and friends and im sure their is many more people here and in other provinces of Canada and other parts of the world that feels the same way , I really hope u guys gets some closer to this bad accident and remember all the good times u had with each and everyone of those 5 young men , they say only the good die young , so they r all in heaven looking out to their family and friends they lift behind , god bless u all and R.I.P. the skipper and crew from the miss ally u will never be forgotton

  • Debbie Stoddard
    February 26, 2013 - 13:28

    I am the wife of the fisherman in the article by Kathy Johnson. I commend Kathy on a well written aricle. It has been hard watching him this past week or so. Sandy has been a rock to so many people here in Wods Harbour-family members and friends alike. I thank you all for the positve and loving comments. No one can understand a fisherman or a fishing community --You have to live it . It is what they do and are no different than any other dangerous job. I now have to watch my son and husband head back out to sea by the end of this week in different boats with some old and some new crew members.. They will be gone for up to two weeks depending on the weather. This is what they do to make a living . So lets pray for good weather and a speedy return for these men and the crew. thank you

    • sandra nickerson
      February 28, 2013 - 14:13

      I would like to say Debbie that Sandy has done an excellant job this past week and I know that it has been a really hard time for him as well. I am Tyson's girlfriend's aunt and Sandy has brought me some comfort with his interviews. This has been such a hard time for everyone but we all know that these men left behind have to continue to go out on that water. I think this has made alot of us open our eyes to the dangers these men face everyday. Please thank sandy for giving us some comfort. We will all miss these boys.

    • sandra nickerson
      February 28, 2013 - 14:27

      I agree Debbie this was a well written article and also I would like to thank Sandy as well. Reading the interviews done by Sandy has helped me so much over this last horrendous week. There is not to many families in this community that didn't have a personal connection to at least one of these boys if not all. Sandy has helped me understand more about the dangers of the sea and just how brave these men are that depend on it for their living, and we all know that even though right now no one feels like going back out there it has to be done. Tyson was a part of our family (Ahley is my neice) and along with the other 4 will be sadly missed.

    • barb abboud
      March 07, 2013 - 12:43

      There is a benefit for the families of the men lost at sea on March the 9th at the Beacon United Church,at 7h00 on Beacon St. in Yarmouth. My sister wrote a song called the Ballad of Miss. Ally. It is a beautiful song and it was written with the help of this article and the many videos posted in honor of the crew.

  • Archie
    February 26, 2013 - 11:53

    Thanks Kathy for the well written article. Thanks to Mr Stoddard for helping to explain about why Miss Alley was slow to leave the grounds. February is always a risky time to be offshore and one needs to respect the weather. It was great to hear that contact was keep up until near the end. My condolences to the families of the young fisherman. God bless them and keep them.

  • barb
    February 26, 2013 - 10:28

    my heart goes out to all the families, such a tragic lose.

  • Richard McLeod
    February 26, 2013 - 10:05

    I have fished for over 40 years so this strikes home to me i am so very sorry for the families my prayers are with you all at this very sad time in your lives.. God be with you all,

  • Tammie
    February 26, 2013 - 08:35

    Thank you for the nice article on the Miss Ally! My heart goes out to all in this community. I hope with time the families find some peace! These boys were doing what they loved to do. I, myself, am a fisherwoman. I love being on the water and I also understand how things can happen pretty quick and you don't have time to react. This is very sad! May you find peace and all the love that is being sent your way from one fisherwoman to others. RIP Miss Ally crew!

  • Everette Surette.
    February 26, 2013 - 06:12

    Sandy Stoddard knows what fishing is all about.I fished for 40 years and have a good idear what them young boys went through, Our prayers and thought for the boys and their familes.

  • lorraine brown
    February 26, 2013 - 03:30

    THANK YOU FOR WELL WRITTEN LETTERS,THE LIFE OF FISHERMAN IS GOOD JOB,TILL SOMETHING AS DRASTIC ,,,,,,MAY THE SOULS OF THE MISS ALLY BE IN OUR HEARTS FOREVER,AND GIVE THE FAMILIES AND FRIENDS OUR HEARTFULL PRAYERS,

  • Bobbie Jeane
    February 25, 2013 - 20:36

    It was seriously a coincidence, but I just happened to be listening to May It Be by Enya when I read this. Never was it more fitting. All of my love to those brave young men that are lost at sea and those that they left behind.

  • Mary
    February 25, 2013 - 20:16

    Thank you so much Mr. Stoddard for this explanation of the disaster. It all makes sense now to those who wondered why. i am so sorry for your loss and the loss to all who are affected by this. May God bless all of you and give you strength to get through this difficult time! Prayers and thoughts are with you!

  • JulieaNN
    February 25, 2013 - 20:12

    Well written. God Bless everyone who has been affected by this tragedy. Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone, espeically the families. R.I.P to the 5 brothers of the "Miss Alley".

  • Crystal Copeland
    February 25, 2013 - 19:31

    Thank you Sandy for this tribute to the boys , It sounds like they may have been hit by a rogue wave and you have helped us to understand how it could happen .

  • Marsha mcnamara
    February 25, 2013 - 19:16

    Wow, great article . Really helps to understand the truth and hardworking finishing men........God bless the families.

  • Wendy Gilkie
    February 25, 2013 - 18:59

    That was very well said. It is a truly heart reaching story. My heart and deepest sympathy goes out to the Families and the community. I lived in Sambro all my life except for the last 7 years. Our community went through the same thing on March 10th, 1988. R.I. P. The Crew of the Miss Allie.

  • elizabeth smith
    February 25, 2013 - 18:50

    So sorry for the loss of these young men. You can tell by their pictures they were great people who had alot to contribute to their community. Thoughts and prayers are will all of you.

  • Krista
    February 25, 2013 - 17:09

    Thanks for posting this interview. Like said above it makes me better understand what could have happened. God bless the friends and family of these brave men.. My husband fished for years and I often thought what if.. And each day they had to go. It is hard work but needs to be done to make a living for their family.

  • Dale Lloyd
    February 25, 2013 - 16:37

    Ignorance is ALWAYS our worst enemy, and even more so in relation to tragedy. It perpetuates the nightmare and promotes confusion and accusation. Thanks for dispelling that ignorance. .

  • Woodsfanatic
    February 25, 2013 - 15:11

    Well written article. Just from reading this and seeing his interviews ,Mr Stoddard is definately a man of integrity, faith, wisdom and great and comforting words for all the hurting family and friends. Thank you to him and the writer for a positive story on a terrible tragedy,

  • Minnie Vallis
    February 25, 2013 - 14:18

    Thank you for sharing this story..Our deepest sympathy to everyone affected by this tradegy..Our prayers go to every family.

  • Charline
    February 25, 2013 - 13:46

    My dad was a fishemen and that was always my worst nightmare that he would not make it home SAFE ....I live in Baie-ste-anne NB and in Escuminac a tragedy hit on June 19 ,1959, when a sudden storm caused a loss of 35 fishermen of the area. It was called the .They left the warf that night to fish Hareng ,the water was calm and when the storm hit some made it back but 35 died ,everyone in that community was effected one way or the other ,it was a Disaster ...Not everyone could do the job of a fishemen ,I know I couldn't ...It's very sad for what happen to those 5 young guys and my heart brakes everytime I see it on the news ...I and sending all my deepest sympathies to all the families

  • james
    February 25, 2013 - 13:43

    was glad to read your post i understand more now about what happen to miss ally its so sad anyone who have been on the sea is feeling sad for those five young men thanks

  • Grieving heart
    February 25, 2013 - 12:30

    Mr. Stoddard, these boys must have seemed like your very own sons, and my heart goes out to you at this tragic, sad time. What you have said over the past 8-9 days must surely have been a huge comfort to the families: knowing their skipper did nothing different than even you, Mr Stoddard, would probably have done, must surely help ease the horrific pain felt by the families of all concerned. You have spoken well to the media, and been front-line to offer advice and consolation to the boys' families: what a God-send. I am constantly reminded of the movie "The Perfect Storm", which ironically was playing on tv the w/e of our lost boat. I did not have the heart to look at it this time, but saw it years back and it was something that opened my eyes to the hazards experienced so regularly by our fishermen. I pray each and all of you can start the first step ; "acceptance". The healing will take many many years, and for some be unattainable, but rest assured thousands upon thousands have shared your grief this past week. Courage and strength to you all.

    • Sandra Cook
      February 25, 2013 - 19:54

      I agree with you wholeheartly....R.I.P. boys....I think it was "The Perfecy Storm"

  • Bonnie
    February 25, 2013 - 12:21

    I am praying for all of you,the lost men ,the parents,but especially the children.I lost my father in the sea disaster of 1961 in Lockeport.There were 17 fisherman and 64 fatherless children left behind.A community is never the same after a disaster like this one.My dad was captin of his boat and only 34,and its been 52 years,March 21,but this brought it all back to many of us.God bless you all and you are in my prayers.

  • Angie Wright
    February 25, 2013 - 12:20

    Certainly is a well written article and helpful in bringing people some insight as to what led up to this tragedy. There should be no blame or pointing fingers. The sea was their passion, they have gone to their resting place together, and now it is up to each of us to pray for strength, comfort and love for their families and friends. As Mr Stoddard stated, "they live in a tight knit community". They will be able to draw strength from each other. God Bless each and everyone!

  • Marg George
    February 25, 2013 - 12:05

    Such a touching account of this terrible tragedy.My thoughts are with all families and friends. God Bless all.

  • Sally Belding
    February 25, 2013 - 11:55

    Thank you for sharing your story with us...this terrible loss is going to be felt by all of us...for a very long time...Such a sad ending for everyone envolvd....My husband was a deep sea fisherman for years he worked for National Seafoods....and I realize after this accident that this can happen to anyone who makes a living on the water....All we can do now is move forward pray for the families....God Bless

  • Susan
    February 25, 2013 - 11:46

    Very well written. The life of a fisherman as well as the family of a fisherman is a tough life. When its good its good but as you can see it can go wrong in a heart beat. Heartfelt sympathy sent to the families of the Miss Ally as well as to all of their fisher mates.

  • Heather
    February 25, 2013 - 11:08

    Very well written article. The facts tell the truth of how fast things can happen on the ocean. I believe that Sandy Stoddard is not only a fellow fisherman, but a loyal friend, The families, friends and the community of Wood's Harbour are in mourning. The loss of these men will be in the minds and hearts of all. The Atlantic is where many make their living and may we offer our blessings to all that sail her. Rest in Peace Captain and Crew of the Miss Ally

  • Debbie
    February 25, 2013 - 11:04

    A well written article. I only hope that many more read it to understand the full impact of what happened on this fateful trip.May the families find some closure in Stoddards words

  • LaDonna
    February 25, 2013 - 09:33

    Thanks for a well written article that states facts from one of the few who can understand how this tragedy can happen accidentally without laying blame or pointing fingers. People 'from away' (aka not from the shore) who do not understand the fishing way of life (for fisherman, as well as, their families) find it difficult to accept that you could be "caught" in a storm. The ocean is a beautiful thing, but it's also unpredictable and dangerous, even on the best of days. When a boat leaves the wharf, there are always calculated risks involved. These men and women of the sea deserve respect for what they do. RIP to the crew, healing thoughts to the families and friends.