Northern Peninsula Coast
Photo by Weldon Schloneger/

Newfoundland couple lucky to be alive after whale flips their fishing boat

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A young Newfoundland couple is lucky to be alive after a whale overturned their boat, throwing them into the icy waters off the coast of Cook’s Harbour.

Twenty-one-year-old Sarah Alyward and 23-year-old Tyler Brown were cod jigging along the northern peninsula earlier this summer when a whale surfaced right underneath their boat.

“All of the sudden, I just heard this bang—and next thing I know, I was just in the water and everything was all dark and I was spinning around trying to get out, trying to find the surface,” Alyward told CBC News.

Neither of them were wearing lifejackets, which got stuck under the boat’s haul after it flipped. Luckily, Alyward managed to orient herself and make it to the surface for air, where she found Brown clinging to the bow of the boat.

Not sure what to do next, Brown swam toward the red gas can floating nearby. In an effort to make the can as buoyant as possible, he emptied it, dumping the gas on himself in the process.

With the no choice but to swim to shore, the couple held onto the gas can to stay afloat as they paddled their way through the frigid waters. At first, the water’s temperature didn’t bother them, but that changed when the shock wore off. They were still far from shore when their hands and feet started going numb.

“All my fingers were white and I was starting to get leg cramps and couldn’t feel my toes anymore,” Alyward said.

At that point, she says, she started to lose her strength, and couldn’t tell whether or not she was still kicking. Sure that they’d met their fate, the couple persevered and kept swimming. A full three hours later, they finally made it close to shore, but the strong tide prevented them from swimming any farther. Luckily, they spotted a few people on the beach and mustered enough energy to cry for help.

Their weakened screams carried across the water and reached the people on shore, who were able to spot the bright red gas can that Alyward and Brown were still holding on to. A rescue boat was immediately sent to the exhausted couple, who were later treated in the hospital for hypothermia. Brown was also treated for burns he sustained from the gasoline he poured on himself.

The two are grateful to be alive and have physically recovered from the ordeal, but they’re not completely over it.

“I don’t even like driving by the water,” Alyward said. “It’s going to be a long time before I’m in a boat again, I’d say.”

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