In this image taken from video, Canadian Forces are seen boarding the barge where two Pakistani sailors had been adrift for three days in the Arabian Sea on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008. (Courtesy Canadian Forces)
Two Pakistani sailors found adrift on a barge in the Arabian Sea on Sunday are thanking their lucky stars for Canada's HMCS Charlottetown, which picked them up after three days without food, water or shelter from the elements.
The men were part of the Pakistani crew of the Al Wabi, a tugboat towing a barge called the Azaan from the United Arab Emirates to Jiwani, Pakistan. They had left the Emirates on Jan. 29.
The tow line securing the barge snapped on Thursday, Jan. 31 and two men boarded it to try to secure a new rope, Cmdr. Patrick St. Denis told Canada AM on Wednesday.
Those men were still aboard the barge when the tugboat capsized in turbulent seas. The crew members aboard the tug went down with the ship while the two aboard the 240-foot barge waited for help.
"They told a very chilling story," said St. Denis, the patrol frigate's commanding officer.
"The tug that was towing the barge lost propulsion for some reason and then capsized and sank, taking with her the other five members of the crew. The two men on the barge were left with nothing to eat, drink and no shelter."
The drifting barge and two frantically waving men were spotted Sunday about 160 kilometres northeast of Muscat, Oman by the crew of a Canadian Forces Sea King helicopter on a routine patrol.
The helicopter reported the sighting to the Charlottetown and the ship proceeded at high speed toward the barge, dispatching a translator and approach team in a smaller vessel.
After learning of the men's traumatic few days, the Canadian troops invited them on board and provided food, showers, a place to sleep and the opportunity to call their families, said a release from the Department of National Defence.
Despite an exhaustive search of the vicinity, no other members of the Al Wabi were found. Debris from the sunken ship was discovered, however, and the search was terminated at the end of the day on Sunday.
The crew then rigged the barge with lights in order to prevent other vessels from colliding with it in the dark, reported its position to the coalition authority for maritime operations in the region and delivered the men to Pakistani authorities in the Emirates.
The HMCS Charlottetown has been deployed in the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf since November 1, 2007 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in the U.S.-led campaign against terror.
In this image taken from video, Canadian Forces lift a Pakistani sailor onto the HMCS Charlottetown on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008. (Courtesy Canadian Forces)