‘Hoping everybody stays safe’: N.S. fishermen scramble to secure boats as Fiona nears

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PETIT-DE-GRAT, N.S. - In the small Acadian community of Petit-de-Grat on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island, fishermen were busy dry-docking their boats or attempting to lash them tightly to wharf as hurricane Fiona approached Friday.

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PETIT-DE-GRAT, N.S. – In the small Acadian community of Petit-de-Grat on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, fishermen were busy dry-docking their boats or attempting to lash them tightly to wharf as hurricane Fiona approached Friday.

At Samsons Enterprises boatyard, Jordan David was helping his friend Kyle Boudreau tie down Boudreau’s lobster boat “Bad Influence” in hopes it wouldn’t be lifted and broken by winds that are forecast to reach up to 145 km/h.

“We’re trying to make the boats as safe as they can be. We’re trying to help each other out,” said David as the rain pelted down and they lashed the boat to iron jacks that support it.

This image provided by the National Hurricane Center National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a satellite view as Hurricane Fiona moves up the United States Atlantic coast, Thursday night, Sept. 22, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NOAA via AP

“All we can do is hope for the best and prepare as best we can. There’s something coming, and just how bad is yet to be determined,” added David, 29, wearing his outdoor waterproof gear.

Cape Breton in northeastern Nova Scotia is projected to be at or near the centre of the storm when it makes landfall Saturday morning.

Boudreau said major storm damage is hard for a coastal community to absorb, as the boats wrecked by the wind are key to their way of life.

“This is our livelihood. Our boats get smashed, our traps gets smashed … it’s stuff you don’t have to start your season next year,” said Boudreau, 33.

Aidan Sampson, 25, said he had been working 11-hour days in his father-in-law’s boatyard for the past week, lifting fishing vessels out of the water.

“If they stay in the water and they’re up against the wharf, they can be beaten by the waves for hours with the possibility of sinking it,” said Sampson.

About 500 metres away, Rodney Fougere and his son Roger Fougere were tying down their family cruise boat in Petit-de-Grat harbour with all the rope they could locate, using thick plastic buoys to help cushion the craft when the waves come.

Rodney Fougere, 63, a resident of Arichat, said he recalled a storm in 1974 that destroyed mobile homes.

“I’m tying up my vessel as best I can so it’s still here after the storm …. They’re saying this one here is up there in terms of wind,” he said.

“I’m hoping for everybody to stay safe. Objects and things can be replaced, but my biggest concern is for people,” said Fougere, who fished for much of his life.

“It can be very dangerous .… I hope if you come back tomorrow you’ll see the same as today — boats above the water line.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

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