A bravery award is not something that is given out lightly and to see four of them presented to people from four different communities in western Newfoundland this week was heartwarming.
The awards were nine years coming, but to hear the recipients speaking with each other it seemed like it was only yesterday that the event they were being honoured for took place.
Captain Frank Skinner of Burgeo, Ed Strickland of Kippens (originally from Burgeo), Tom Upwards of Rose Blanche and Ben Savory of Port aux Basques made up the crew of the tugboat Point Viking, owned by Montship, that went out into Strait of Bell Isle in September of 2004 and saved the lives of five people aboard a yacht named D’Accord.
It was by no means an easy rescue, with winds that blew up to 96 km/h that day, whipped up by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan, and seas with waves that were 10 to 12 metres high.
What clinched the deal for Skinner to attempt the rescue was the fact that there was a 10-month-old child on board the stricken yacht.
It’s likely he would have gone out anyway, but for him, that really got the adrenalin flowing.
The rescue was a long process as the Point Viking left Port Harmon in Stephenville at 4 p.m. on the day of the rescue and pulled up to the same wharf at 8 a.m. the next morning. There were times when Skinner really feared for his two deckhands, Savory and Upwards, as the deck of the boat was at times awash from the heavy seas.
Upon receiving their awards, all four men beamed with smiles at being recognized for an event that will forever be etched in their memories — one that had its great rewards when the crew was able to hitch a line to the boat carrying the five people from Germany.
Those men were truly heroes that day and their recognition with the Award of Bravery is well deserved. It’s gratifying to know that there are still people who selflessly put their own lives in peril to help others.