Halifax, NS | Tue, October 12th, 2010

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Liner answers distress call

Passengers on the Queen Mary 2 were feeling proud and excited over its role in a rescue at sea overnight Saturday.

The ocean-going liner diverted from its intended course around 10 p.m. Saturday after receiving word that a small pleasure boat had run into trouble off the south coast of Nova Scotia.

"We slept through the whole thing, but it was exciting to hear about this morning," said Mississippi resident Debbie McLendon. "When the commodore made the announcement this morning, I applauded him."

Maj. Paul Doucette, spokesman for the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, said the Canadian Coast Guard received a distress signal from the American craft Santa Lucia late Saturday. As a matter of routine, the rescue centre transmitted a general broadcast to all ships in the area, asking for help.

Doucette said the 345-metre Queen Mary 2 received the message and stood by for further instructions, but the massive ship wasn’t needed.

"A call for help was made out and the Queen Mary got that call and was ready to respond."

Cunard tour manager Beatrix Bense said Sunday that when the ship got word that the pleasure boat was taking on water, the Queen Mary 2 immediately headed to the distressed vessel.

"We got there at about 11:30 p.m.," Bense said.

The cruise ship, carrying about 2,650 passengers, stayed on the scene until the coast guard icebreaker Edward Cornwallis arrived about 4:30 a.m. to escort the boat to Yarmouth.

The Queen Mary 2, cruising from New York to Nova Scotia and back, was travelling from Bar Harbor, Maine to Halifax when the call came in.

"This is maritime law, and it’s most important to try and save a life at sea," Bense said.

That put the large liner several hours behind its scheduled arrival time of 8 a.m.

"It was 2 p.m. before we were docked and passengers could start getting off," a very tired Bense said.

She was up much of the night and then on the phone by 6:30 a.m. Sunday trying to reschedule on-shore tours for passengers.

"Our highest priority was to save the Peggys Cove tour."

Early Sunday evening, McLendon and niece Jackie Sullivan were busy shopping at Pavilion 22 on the Halifax waterfront.

"We’re disappointed to have missed some time in Halifax, but I’m OK with that," Sullivan said.

The Queen Mary 2 was scheduled to leave at 11 p.m. Sunday and arrive in New York on Tuesday.



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