Clifford Eugene "Cliffy" Nodding (1952-2007)

Clifford Eugene "Cliffy" Nodding (1952-2007)

Tragedy strikes on lobster season's opening day
By Barb Rayner

BEAVER HARBOUR – Tragedy struck this small fishing community Tuesday – the first day of the lobster season – when one man died after the lobster boat The Big Sister capsized near The Wolves.

While few details of the accident were available at press time, Sgt. Greg MacAvoy of District 1 RCMP confirmed that one person had died and the three others on board the vessel were rescued.

Const. Brent Allaby, who was at the Beaver Harbour wharf, said he had talked to the crew members and understood they were just setting their lobster traps when the boat started to take on water. It shifted to one side then capsized, he said.

The three surviving crew members, who spent between 15 and 20 minutes in the cold waters of the Bay of Fundy, were picked up by another lobster fisherman, Gerry Paul, in his boat the Makayla Marie while the other crew member was taken into the Beaver Harbour wharf on board the seiner Margaret Elizabeth, which was on its way to Nova Scotia. He was then rushed by ambulance to Saint John Regional Hospital.

The Coast Guard was called in to the scene and a Search and Rescue helicopter was also there. Although the three surviving crew members were suffering from mild hypothermia Const. Allaby said they did not want to go to hospital.

Sgt. MacAvoy said the accident will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard while a post mortem would be conducted later Tuesday on the deceased.

Police are not releasing the name of the deceased person.

SOURCE: The Saint Croix Courier (St. Stephen, NB) - November 13, 2007.

First day of lobster season claims life
Mayday Help dispatched from Saint John, Nova Scotia and America to go to sinking boat's aid
by Mary-Ellen Sanders

Violet McKinley, left, and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet share tears and memories of Clifford Nodding, 54, of Beaver Harbour, after a tragic accident at sea claimed his life during the first hours of lobster fishing season. McKinley, a family friend, and Doucet, MLA for Charlotte-the Isles were on the Beaver Harbour wharf Tuesday afternoon, just hours after the accident happened.

BEAVER HARBOUR - A lone boat, stacked full of lobster traps, remained tied to the Beaver Harbour Wharf Tuesday afternoon while all of the local lobster fishermen were out in the water setting traps on the first day of the season. The traps that remained were a reminder of Clifford Nodding, 54, of Beaver Harbour who died in the first few hours of lobster season while his boat was unloading in the choppy waters near the Wolves.

Nodding's childhood friend Violet McKinley was on the wharf in a state of disbelief Tuesday afternoon. As she looked at the unset traps, that she said were supposed to be Nodding's second round for the day, she wiped tears from her eyes with the corner of her sleeve.

"I've just known Cliffy all my life, we just grew up together and we're real close friends with our family," said McKinley. "This is hard to take. It's devastating the whole community " We're going to hurt bad, we're going to hurt for a long time."

McKinley described her friend as a guy with a smile on his face, always laughing, willing to give a hug and make someone's day, and a good family man to his wife and three children.

Sgt. Greg MacAvoy, with the RCMP in St. George, said at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, the first day of lobster-fishing season, a mayday call was sent out from Nodding's boat. He said the boat was out in the water setting traps when it started taking in water. Nodding and three others on the boat were capsized, but not before he managed to make one last cry for help.

MacAvoy said boats and helicopters were dispatched from Saint John, Nova Scotia and America, to go to the sinking boat's aid. But, before they made it, MacAvoy said another local fishing boat heard the mayday and went to their aid. One fishing boat brought the three other fishermen to safety while a faster boat took Nodding.

Nodding died in the ambulance on the way to the Saint John Regional Hospital. The other three fishermen were left cold and shivering, but otherwise unharmed.

MacAvoy said the boat did not sink, it was dragged onto a beach in the Wolves and will be investigated. He said the cause of the incident is still unknown and is under investigation.

McKinley said back at Nodding's home everyone seemed to be in a state of shock. She said some people in the community are telling a tale of heroism, that Nodding threw safety devices to the three other fishermen while running back onto the ship to make the final cry for help before the boat was abandoned.

But, she said, she does not truly know what happened out there, only that in the wake of his death the community will not be the same.

"You hear about things like this but it's never been this close before, it's going to be a hard time healing," said McKinley. "It really will be."

At the edge of the wharf is a small store called Barry & Eldridge.

Inside, Randi Barry and Tanya Paul sat at a table together in silence.

Barry said the store is a hangout spot for many locals, including the fishermen who drop in for their morning coffee.

Everyone knows everyone in the village, said Barry, and today her phone hasn't stopped ringing with people, many of them crying, who were eager to find out who was hurt and if it was true.

While the phones were ringing through the village, Barry said out on the water the boys were quieter than she has ever heard them.

"I have a boat radio and usually on the first day people are talking on it saying we are setting up this or setting up here, but there's been hardly a sound on it today it's been really quiet," said Barry.

"I think they are just out there doing their job and going to come home and that's it."

Paul sat rocking a baby on her knee, her eyes glazed and tired. She said her husband was on the boat that came to the sinking boats rescue. She got a call just after 8 a.m. saying not to worry, he wasn't one of the ones hurt and he was on his way to shore with three of the rescued men on board.

"He called me on his cell, he doesn't show upsettness, he doesn't show it until he gets home," said Paul.

"I think he was really upset."

Paul said her husband had to go back out to set his traps on Tuesday.

Even though he probably didn't want to face the seas again that day he had to make his living.

She starred out the window waiting for her daughter to get off the school bus and the ocean to deliver her husband back to her safely.

She said with two small children at home she worries everyday about her husband's safety, everyone knows its rough out there, and Tuesday was a harsh reminder.

Fisheries Minister and neighbouring resident Rick Doucet was on the empty wharf Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by the calm rippling waters, that many said were no indication of how the water was when you got out in it.

Doucet said he knew Nodding personally. He ran into him at Tim Hortons, at the hockey rink, out at restaurants and around town.

Doucet said he came to the village on Tuesday afternoon to offer whatever comfort he could to the close-knit community who had witnessed a true tragedy that hit home to all the people that fare the seas every day.
"It is a reminder and you look around right now, these boats are loaded down with the lobster traps and this is something they've been doing for years heading out to sea and it's one of the perils they face daily is the dangers of the sea," said Doucet. "Even though this is the first time this has happened out of this community it is still a reminder for us that all these people make a living on the sea and the sea is a danger you don't know what's around the next corner, you can take all the precautions but you don't know what's going to happen."

SOURCE: New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal (Saint John, NB) - November 14, 2007.

Fishing risky business, says lobsterman
Tragedy Captain rescued three crewmen of capsized boat, but mourns his friend who died
by Mary-Ellen Sanders

Lobster fisherman Gerald Paul, captain of the Makayla Marie, rescued three crewmen from Big Sister after the vessel capsized on Tuesday.

BEAVER HARBOUR - "Mayday, Mayday," were the last words Gerald Paul ever heard from his lifelong friend and fellow fisherman Clifford Nodding.

Nodding, 54, of Beaver Harbour died on the first day of lobster fishing season when Big Sister, the fishing boat he captained, capsized as he was laying lobster traps off the Wolves, a group of small islands near Grand Manan.

Paul rescued three crewmen on the boat.

Nodding was later pulled from the frigid Bay of Fundy and taken to the Saint John Regional Hospital, where he later died.

Paul is a man of few words. But the look in his eyes tells the story he can't get out.

He was soft-spoken at sunset Wednesday as he stood on his fishing boat, the Makayla Marie - named after his granddaughter - surrounded by the day's lobster catch. His skin wrinkled from the sea, his hair ruffled from the wind and his eyes watery and filled with sorrow, he looked as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his tired shoulders.

He was the first one on the scene after Big Sister capsized.

After hearing the call for help, Paul said he headed toward the boat and arrived to see the bow sticking out of the water with three survivors hanging on for dear life.

"I went over to the boat and they jumped aboard. They were wet, cold and shivering. They were pretty cold and distraught," said Paul.

But the captain of Big Sister, his friend Cliffy, was nowhere in sight.

"He was in the boat underwater and (as) they was towing the boat into shore he floated out. He was underwater three-quarters of an hour," said Paul. "It is awful tragic and it's hard to talk about it."

Sgt. Greg MacAvoy of the RCMP in St. George said early results show that Nodding died from drowning. MacAvoy said it is too early to say what the cause of the accident was, but survivors have given police a breakdown of events.

MacAvoy said the three rescued crewmen said they were working with water all around their feet when they realized the boat was filling up with too much water. He said one of the survivors jumped for it while the two other survivors were thrown off the boat when it capsized and were able to break the surface of the water and cling to the bow.

It is suspected Nodding was trapped in the steering room where he made his mayday call.

It all happened in a matter of seconds.

Before the dispatched boats and helicopters from Saint John, Nova Scotia and the U.S. could respond to the call for help, Paul's nearby fishing boat got there first. He was followed by several other boats that helped out at the scene.

MacAvoy could not confirm when Nodding died but said he was pronounced dead at the Saint John Regional Hospital where he was taken by ambulance.

"It was hard," said Paul. "It was the first day of the season and we had a boatload of traps on board and we had to set them - you make a year's work in a couple of weeks."

Fishermen on the wharf Wednesday said it was the absence of Nodding on the wharf that morning, the silence of the boat radio without his voice and passing his pink buoyed traps that are still set in the seas that hurt the most.

"Fishing's about the worst risk business out there, you could say," said Paul.

"The seas out there today, there was white water up above the boat. It's scary - it would be to a new person - but I grew up that way."

Robert Armstrong's boat was the third vessel on the scene of the accident Tuesday morning.

He said when he arrived, he saw just the bow of the boat and the rescued men safe on board other fishing boats and a sea of dark freezing water that he knew Nodding was in.

Armstrong said he spent all day Tuesday and Wednesday morning thinking about Nodding.

"Everybody around her assumes he just took on to much water. We heard he had engine trouble, the boat laid sideways," said Armstrong.

"You can just about imagine how you feel, I mean I've known Cliffy all my life "¦ Cliffy was 100 per cent, he was a nice man and I don't think he ever had a bad word against anybody. But that's the way it goes."

Armstrong said Nodding wasn't one to take chances. He had been fishing for his whole life and knew the sea and the way to work with it. It was bad luck, he said.

"You gotta go out, payments gotta be met," said Armstrong.

The fishermen have a lot of work to do in the next couple weeks but today is a day off - a day to attend the funeral and honour their friend's memory.

Nodding's funeral will be held today at Calvary Atlantic Baptist Church in Blacks Harbour.

SOURCE: New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal (Saint John, NB) - November 15th, 2007.

Nodding remembered as a good soul
By Barb Rayner

BEAVER HARBOUR – A pall of sadness hangs over this close-knit fishing community this week as they mourn the tragic loss of a man who everybody loved.

Clifford Eugene Nodding, 54, known as Cliffy to all his friends, died Tuesday after his 10.5-metre lobster boat, the Big Sister, capsized as he and his three-man crew were setting their traps on the first day of the lobster season.

Hundreds of people lined up at St. George Funeral Home Wednesday to pay their respects to the family with the line-up stretching right down to the river in the evening and there were so many floral tributes they were unable to fit them all into the funeral home.

The Calvary Baptist Church in Blacks Harbour was packed to overflowing Thursday afternoon for the funeral of the popular, self-employed fisherman who everyone remembered for his smile and happy-go-lucky disposition.

The service was conducted by Rev. Bruce Alcorn with the eulogy given by Darlene Hawkins and followed by interment in the Beaver Harbour community cemetery. In Nodding’s memory, the family is asking that donations be made to the Charlotte County Cancer Society or the charity of the donor’s choice.

Born in Blacks Harbour, Nodding was the son of Doris (Dickson) Nodding and the late Byron Nodding. He is survived by his wife, Lorena (Keating), two sons, Mark Crocker, of Tiberton, Nova Scotia, Nicholas Nodding, of Beaver Harbour, one daughter, Jacalyn Nodding of Beaver Harbour, his mother, two brothers, Stephen and Mark Nodding and two sisters, Joan Marceau and Ora McCarthy.


Lieutenant Commander Pat Jessup, spokesperson for the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, said they received a call at 7.26 a.m. Tuesday from Fundy Coast Guard who informed them that the vessel Cathy Curtis had picked up a distress “mayday” call.

She said immediately a mayday call was put out to everybody in the area and there was a quick response.

The Margaret Elizabeth, which was about three-quarters of a mile away, Speedair Provincial Airlines and a Department of Fisheries and Oceans patrol aircraft all went to the area.

Jessup said the Canadian Coast Guard vessels Westport and Courtney Bay as well as a US Coast Guard cutter out of Eastport also headed to the area and a Cormorant out of Greenwood was also dispatched.

At 7:36 a.m. she said the Speedair aircraft reported there were two fishing vessels at the scene – the Makayla Marie and the Margaret Elizabeth.

By 7:44 a.m. Jessup said the three crew members had been rescued by the Makayla Marie but a fourth person – the captain Nodding - was still reported missing.

She said the Margaret Elizabeth took the Big Sister under tow at 7:57 a.m. to take the vessel into shallow water. It was grounded near the eastern Wolves islands, a group of small rocky islands located approximately 12 kms south of Blacks Harbour, and at 8:03 a.m. Nodding was recovered by the Margaret Elizabeth.

He was taken to the Beaver Harbour wharf where an ambulance was waiting and rushed to the Saint John Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Tony Hooper, director of resources for Connors Bros Limited in Blacks Harbour, picked up Nodding’s mayday call on the radio and relayed the message to the Margaret Elizabeth because he knew the seiner was close by.

“I heard the call come in and I recognized Cliffy’s voice. If it was not for his quick actions it could have been a lot worse. These guys only had a matter of minutes – even seconds would have made a difference. Cliffy threw life jackets and life rings to these guys,” Hooper said.

As soon as he heard the call for help Hooper said he called Delmers Doucet on board the Margaret Elizabeth.

“I knew that was where he was and thank God he was. It was a stroke of luck that the Margaret Elizabeth was there and Gerry Paul (Makayla Marie),” Hooper said. “They only had a matter of minutes in the water or it would have been too late for them. It is quite scary and a sad situation.”

Hooper said it was hard to hear it happening over the air and he heard Nodding say the vessel was going down fast.

“This whole thing brings into focus and underscores what all of our Bay of Fundy fishermen face with each season. You hear tell of accidents almost every lobster season but you never really think it is going to be someone you know and someone close to your community,” he said.

“Cliffy certainly will be missed by everybody. He was a real nice guy – and his quick actions saved those other three guys. It is very sad what happened to Cliffy but I attribute the survival of those other three boys to his actions. I am just glad he was recovered.”

Hooper said it’s not only fishermen in the local area who are grieving but the entire fishing community because it is a pretty close-knit family.

Sgt. Greg MacAvoy of District 1 RCMP said they had still not had a chance to talk to the three crew members but it looked like they were out setting traps and somehow the boat started taking water then quickly capsized.

While the crew members were OK he said Nodding had swallowed some water and the EMTs worked on him all the way to Saint John in the ambulance but he was pronounced dead on arrival. An autopsy was carried out Tuesday afternoon.

Sgt. MacAvoy said the accident is being investigated with members of District 1 RCMP working in conjunction with the National Transportation Safety Board investigators.


Talk to anyone in Beaver Harbour or the surrounding area who knew Nodding and they will all tell you what a happy-go-lucky guy he was who always had a smile for everyone.

One of the many people who are taking his death particularly hard is Ross Hawkins who fished with Nodding up until June of this year when he decided to go back into construction.

“Cliffy was a lifelong friend. You only get so many really good friends you can trust and he was certainly one,” Hawkins said. “We were good friends our entire lives and I fished with him ever since he bought this boat.”

In fact, said Hawkins, one of the reasons he didn’t want to give up fishing was because of Nodding.

“We were a team for a long time and he was a good guy. There is no one I would trust my life more with than Cliffy. I think the boat took a wave.”

Hawkins said his friend loaded his lobster boat light because he was careful and he believes what happened Tuesday morning was a fluke.

“We had different days when we have seen waves come over the boat but it had to be a fluke. I don’t know what could have happened,” Hawkins said.

“Maybe something was leaking and that made the boat a little heavier and the spray coming over the side of the boat could have accumulated. It had to be just a fluke. You know accidents happen. You just don’t like to see it happen.”

Nodding wasn’t one to take chances, Hawkins said. And when the boat got into trouble Tuesday morning, he said he understood Nodding threw the crew members their life jackets and told them to get off the boat. One of them, he said, hadn’t even got his arms into the life jacket when the boat capsized.

"There is not a fisherman out there who would not do anything to help everybody. You are all just one big family out there. Everybody is fishing and you have to keep going but there isn’t a guy out there that is not thinking of him,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins described his friend as a happy-go-lucky guy. He said everybody knew him and he always had a smile on his face and was always laughing.

Carole MacKenzie, who has known Nodding all her life, said that following the news of his death it was like a black cloud fell over the community.

“He will be sorely missed. He was always around the wharf and always around with the guys,” she said. “He was always doing things for people and he dearly loved his family. Everybody is feeling really, really sad about this.”
She said people will miss seeing Nodding’s truck going through the community. She said he always had a smile on his face and he talked to everyone.

“He cared and he listened. He has been a fisherman all his life and they all cared about him. He was a good man. He was always happy with what he had and he loved his children.

“I think he touched everybody in the community. He would stop and talk to people and if you had any trouble he was always first on the scene.”

Frank McCullum, who chairs the Beaver Harbour LSD, said his death had shaken the community.

“It certainly seems to have affected a lot of people here. It is a very sad situation. I think it will be felt in the community for a long time,” he said.

Violet McKinley, who had known Nodding all her life, said everybody loved him.

“He was happy-go-lucky. You never saw Cliffy with a frown on his face. We all grew up in Beaver so everybody knew everybody. He was everybody’s friend,” she said.

“My mother is 94 and she is devastated by this. He would come in and he would hug her. He talked to everyone. It didn’t matter whether you were young or old. Everybody thought the world of Cliffy.”

Minister of Fisheries and the MLA for Charlotte-The Isles Rick Doucet, who knew Nodding personally, said it was both shocking and tragic that this accident had happened.

“I think everybody in the community is reeling from the effects. Cliffy was a very good family man, a professional fisherman and I know he was very well liked in the community,” Doucet said.

It is tragedies such as this that bring small, close knit communities like Beaver Harbour together, said Doucet, and not only the family but the whole community is mourning Nodding’s loss.

"I am sure other fishermen are grieving the loss not only in this area but in all of coastal New Brunswick and no doubt evaluating their own surroundings,” he said.

"Infortunately, we just lost one of the good people in this community. I share that loss with all these people.”

SOURCE: The Saint Croix Courier (St. Stephen, NB) - November 16, 2007.

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