BOSTON — The U.S. Coast Guard was tracking a crippled Nova Scotia tall ship off Massachusetts on Tuesday, a day after nine people were rescued from the schooner replica when its engine failed in towering waves and stiff winds.
The coast guard said it was notified at about 12:35 a.m. Monday that the engines on the Liana’s Ransom were disabled, the generator was failing and one of its main sails had wrapped around the mast about 93 kilometres east of Gloucester.
It launched two motorized lifeboats to tow the 26-metre vessel back, but rough seas forced the coast guard to cut the tow line, spokesman Ross Ruddell said.
“We had to break the tow,” Ruddell said from Boston. “The seas were just too rough to safely tow the people and the vessel back.”
The lifeboat crews told the nine people on the steel-hulled ship to put on immersion suits so they could be transferred to the lifeboats.
The coast guard crew faced winds of about 55 kilometres an hour and waves swelling to three metres as they tried to get all nine crew members off the ship and onto the two lifeboats, Ruddell said.
“It’s always dangerous when you have to pull people off a boat in the middle of a weather event … but we’re glad that we got everyone off safely and that they’re all going to be OK.”
Ruddell said one man suffered a head injury when he leapt onto one of the rescue boats. He was flown by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital, while the remaining eight crew members were brought back to Gloucester. He said the man was later released from hospital.
The people who were rescued expressed their relief at being safe, he said.
“They were shaken, understandably, but they were pretty happy that we were able to get there and make sure that they’re all going to be able to continue seeing their family and friends.”
A message posted Tuesday on a Facebook page called Schooner Liana’s Ransom said the ship left Halifax on Friday for the Caribbean but ran into engine trouble off Gloucester.
“Captain Ryan Tilley, in consultation with the U.S. Coast Guard, made the decision to evacuate the crew for their safety,” says the message posted by Joseph Tilley, Ryan’s father. “One crew member suffered a concussion during the evacuation. … At this time we can happily report that everyone is safe and secure ashore.”
A locator beacon was left on Liana’s Ransom in the hopes of tracking and towing it back to port. But Ruddell later said the ship had demasted, was drifting east-northeast and was 55 kilometres east of York in southern Maine at about noon Tuesday.
He said there was water in the hold.
A coast guard cutter was on scene and a notice to mariners was issued to alert other ships to its location.
Steve Tilley, Ryan’s uncle, said he was glad everyone made it off the ship safely but it wasn’t encouraging that the vessel was sitting lower in the water.
“That could mean they’re taking on a lot of water,” he said.
He said the ship had another incident in which it was demasted in a rainstorm off Cape Sable Island in December as it was heading south. He said a full refurbishment was done and it underwent inspection by Transport Canada.
“They’ve had a string of bad luck,” he said.
Ruddell said the ship was headed to Provincetown, Mass., before it encountered problems.
The ship’s website says the vessel is certified by Transport Canada to carry 70 passengers, offers day sails and weekly charters and is “crewed by a colourful pirate crew in period costumes.”
The schooner was built in 1998 in Houston and was sailed home to Nova Scotia in late 2006, the website says.