BAR HARBOR — “Mayday, Mayday, I’m going down behind Sheep” was all Teagan Candage had time to transmit over VHF radio as his lobster boat Georgia Maria filled with water in Frenchman Bay Saturday morning.
“By that time, my stern was so heavy and water was coming in so much, I realized and told my crew: guys, we’re going down,” he said. “I got on the radio, and I only had 10 seconds to do it before the boat was completely underwater.”
Candage and his crew, Maine Maritime Academy classmates Dan Cox of Ellsworth and Alex Neill of Augusta, were in the water less than a minute. They were pulled up by David Spear and Vince Abbott aboard Spear’s boat, Frenchman Bay. Spear towed the swamped boat to the town beach.
“The radio call went out around 8:45 a.m.,” said Jimi Differ, assistant harbormaster in Bar Harbor. “Within 30 seconds, there were 10 boats coming to help. Everybody was fine.”
The boat’s hull, a 30-foot Duffy with a brand-new extension on the back, appears to be sound. But Candage says he’ll need a new engine and new electronics.
“I’m just glad my crew’s okay, that we all made it out alright.”
Soon after they started hauling Saturday morning, Georgia Maria’s propeller got caught in a rope connected to another fisherman’s traps behind Sheep Porcupine Island.
Candage said he was trying to avoid cutting the rope, which would have cost another fisherman his trap, when he shut off the engine and opened an access panel that let in all the water.
His boat is equipped with a “cut-out” to access the propeller in just such a situation, he explained, but water didn’t drain off the back of the boat because they had stopped moving.
“You are supposed to pop it up so you can have access to the wheel, but I couldn’t go anywhere because if I ran my boat, my wheel would have been spinning and I would have cut that guy’s gear off,” he said. “The back of my boat was heavy, so water started rushing in my scuppers and coming in through that cut-out. It was blowing pretty good, and there was a lot of chop.”
So he radioed for help.
“I told my guys, strip off your clothes, get ready, we’re gonna be in the water,” he said. “We didn’t have time to get life jackets, they were all down forward. It happened so quick that water was already filled down below.
“The next thing I know, five boats are surrounding me. The Frenchman Bay was right there to get us.”
Candage’s father, Chris, and brother Colby also were nearby on the water on their own boats. After everyone was out of the water, they and others helped retrieve gear that was floating nearby.
“I had Phil Corson there, my brother was right there, Rat Burns was there, Blake Haass was there,” Candage said.
The boat was almost completely underwater as they towed it to the beach, Abbott said. “They had a full fuel tank, full bait barrels and a lobster tank full of water, so it was really heavy already.”
There were no oil or fuel leaks, Differ said. When the Coast Guard received word that everyone was safe and the incident had become a salvage operation, they did not send a boat from Southwest Harbor.
Once they had Georgia Maria safely tied up at the town beach, they waited for the tide to go out to drain the water. Friends and family came to help unload gear. They planned to refloat the boat on high tide Saturday evening.
“It was Colby and his crew, me and my crew, and my dad,” Candage said. “A lot of people are helping out, which I really appreciate.”