CANSO, N.S. – Six fellow fishermen located the body of fishing captain aboard a stricken fishing boat after the official search for him had been scaled back and turned over to the RCMP as a missing persons case.
The fishermen wanted to bring their friend home.
The vessel Fishermen’s Provider II had struck a shoal – commonly known locally as Frying Pan Shoal – near Canso at approximately 8 p.m. on Feb. 6. Three crewmembers were rescued from a liferaft alongside the boat that evening by another fishing vessel, but rescue officials said a fourth man, 64-year-old Roger Stoddard, the vessel’s captain, had elected to stay onboard. A small fleet of fishing vessels reportedly stayed on the scene until late that night to see if they could provide any assistance.
In an RCMP media release issued Friday, Feb. 9, the police said Stoddard’s body had been recovered at approximately 8:30 a.m. Friday morning by fishermen.
Stoddard is from Shelburne County and friends and family here, and those in the fishing community, are mourning his loss.
A coast guard vessel, Cormorant helicopter and Hercules aircraft were among the assets that had been deployed to the scene of the distressed vessel to maintain on-scene coverage. On Thursday, Feb. 8, it had been announced by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre that the rescue operation to find the captain had been scaled back, given that no contact with him had been made. The matter was being turned over to the RCMP has a missing person’s investigation.
At a Thursday news conference, Canadian coast guard officer Marc Ouellette told the media a search is reduced when officials believe they’ve exhausted effort available and “do not reasonably think” a person will be located alive. He said over the past 24 hours rescuers aboard assets at the scene had been instructed to board the vessel if it was safe to do so, but Ouellette said the weather prevented that from happening.
Ouellette said there had also been an aerial search conducted, using infrared and radar.
On shore, it was a sad vigil as people waited for news about the fishing captain.
But on Friday it was a heartbreaking phone call that was made to Stoddard’s family after his body had been found.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has deployed a team of investigators to the region following the grounding of the fishing vessel. The TSB will gather information and assess the occurrence.
FISHING CAPTAIN REMEMBERED: BY KATHY JOHNSON
Captain Roger Stoddard is being remembered as a hard-working, fun-loving, intelligent man, with a heart of gold who would help anybody.
“He was a very good friend. He was like a brother to me,” said Robey Hatfield of Upper Port LaTour. “When we were around together in the early 90s I couldn’t have had a closer friend. I couldn’t say one thing against him and anybody that knew him I don’t think could either.”
Hatfield said he and Stoddard, who was originally from Port LaTour, fished in company for a long time.
“He was one of the best fishermen that ever sailed the ocean when he put his mind to it. When he was in his prime and had his act together nobody could beat him. I’d put him up against anybody. I tried quite many times when we fished together but as long he had one more haddock he was happy,” Hatfield said. “I remember one trip I had him beat by one haddock – three or four or five pounds out of a 25,000, 30,000-pound catch. He looked at his crew and said ‘that one you lost I told you that was the one.’ That’s the way he was. As long as he beat you by one fish he was happy.”
Hatfield said while Stoddard was a quiet man who generally kept his problems to himself, the two spent many evenings while fishing together talking.
“He was a very smart, intelligent man. Too smart at times because he thought of too much to do. He was always thinking and had great ideas but he would be trying to get it all done in one day or one year. He was always on the go. Before he finished one thing he wanted to start another one.”
Hatfield said his friend could also be stubborn, and tried to solve problems and accomplish tasks on his own, quite often succeeding. “When Roger squinted his eyes together, he had it figured out.”
Aside from the occasional phone conversation, Hatfield said it had been a few years since he had seen his old friend. “We had grown apart. He moved from here and got into the crab fishery. I stayed longlining and sort of retired and he kept crab fishing . . . I know he helped me a lot with different things in life and I hope I helped him.”
Stoddard perished after choosing to stay with the vessel Fisherman’s Provider II after it went aground on Frying Pan Shoal off Canso on Feb. 6. Three of the four-member crew were safely rescued by another fishing vessel, the Miss Lexi, that same evening. Stoddard made the decision to stay aboard.
His body was recovered from the vessel on Feb. 9 by longtime friend Steve Goreham, Steve Meade, Alan Newell and several others from the local community who took it upon themselves to find Stoddard and bring their friend home.
“This was only the fourth trip out to sea for the Fisherman’s Provider II after a refit last year that Roger played an instrumental part in,” wrote Fisherman’s Market president Fred Greene and director Monte Snow in a public Facebook post. “As captain, he made sure every step was taken to ensure the vessel was in tip-top shape and ready to get back out fishing. He was a skilled shipwright and did a lot of the work himself, with a work ethic that was truly admirable.
“While he was only our captain for a short time, he was well known to the fishing community as courageous and driven, someone who knew where to seek out the fish and landed millions of pounds over his lifetime. He will be remembered as a proud fisherman and his loss will be deeply felt across the fishing community in Nova Scotia.”