Planes and vessels were still part of a massive ocean search for the daughter of Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey late Sunday afternoon, almost 40 hours after the young woman was swept from a tall ship by a rogue wave.
Laura Gainey, 25, was washed off a covered deck at the back of the vessel by a huge wave at about 9:00 p.m. EST Friday. She wasn't wearing a life-jacket, but she was wearing warm protective clothing.
Computer-generated estimates from the U.S. Coast Guard suggest that life-threatening hypothermia would set in after 36 hours in the water, even though Gainey fell from the Picton Castle barque into warm waters about 700 kilometres east-southeast of Cape Cod.
Petty Officer Larry Chambers, a spokesman for the U.S. coast guard, said that the search will continue through the afternoon. "She is known to be a good swimmer, and she's also in warm currents," he said. "We're still out there searching."
The U.S. coast guard has sent a plane with infra-red radar, cameras and a crew of eight. The Canadian search and rescue centre has also sent a Hercules aircraft to the area.
Meanwhile, the vessel Mindanao, a civilian tanker, is also participating in the search, along with the Picton Castle barque.
Dan Moreland, the senior captain of the Picton Castle, said from Lunenburg, N.S. that Laura Gainey is a "well-loved," enthusiastic volunteer on the vessel and is known to be very fit.
However, Moreland described the situation as "completely devastating for everybody" on the vessel.
He said hundreds of former crew members of the tall ship, which undertakes voyages around the world, have been contacting the Lunenburg headquarters to express concern through calls and e-mails.
"It could happen to any ship, to any captain, and from my point of view, it's the captain's greatest fear," he said.
Ms. Gainey first joined the ship as a trainee in Cape Town in the last three months of the ship's world voyage.
"She is hardworking, someone who wanted to turn her life around. She was passionate about sailing, loves it and worked very hard," he said. "She was no slouch."
Mr. Gainey learned the missing woman was his daughter on Saturday. Gauthier attended the Canadiens' 3-2 shootout loss to Buffalo on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. Players and coaches had a day off Sunday and were not available for comment.
In a news release issued issued by the Montreal Canadiens, the club said "the thoughts and prayers of the entire Montreal Canadiens organization are with Mr. Gainey and his family."
Mr. Gainey is currently awaiting news on the search with his three other children Anna, Colleen and Steve.
The club said that Piere Gauthier, assistant general manager, will manage the responsibilities of Ms. Gainey, who is the executive vice-president and general manager of the club.
Mr. Moreland said crew aboard the 55-metre barque have told him a massive wave washed over the ship as it was en route to Grenada after leaving Lunenburg, N.S., on Tuesday.
Ms. Gainey was not wearing a life-jacket at the time and the seas were as high as seven metres, while winds reached gale-force strength.
Mr. Moreland, one of the vessel's two captains, said the crew immediately threw several pieces of rescue gear into the water to mark the site and give her something to grab onto.
"They were pretty rough conditions," he said Saturday in an interview from Lunenburg. "It sounds like the ship definitely got swept by a very substantial wave, an unusually large one."
Mr. Moreland said it was pitch black at the time, making it almost impossible for the crew of 29 to see her. When darkness closed in Saturday, the Picton and the commercial vessel shone lights on the water's surface.
"There's prospect for hope, but the longer it is, the worse it is," he said. "The crew is tired, but they're persevering. This is a rough go."
Ms. Gainey, who has some experience on boats, was on a shelter deck in the rear of the vessel, which Mr. Moreland said is considered a safe area. It wasn't clear whether she was on watch duty at the time.
Ms. Jefferson said winds were gusting at 55 and 75 kilometres an hour Friday night. The winds had eased by Saturday, with waves at about three metres.
The vessel is owned and operated by the Windward Isles Sailing Ship Co. Ltd. It functions as a deep-ocean sail training and long-distance education vessel.
The Picton Castle has berths for 40 sail trainees and 12 professional crew members.
The company's website says the Picton Castle, registered in the Cook Islands, also carries supplies and educational materials to small islands in the South Pacific.
Crew sent a posting from the vessel on Thursday, two days after it headed out of port in Lunenburg on its voyage.
It described the new trainees bundling up in six layers of clothing as they tried to keep warm and adjust to life aboard a "rolling ship."
"Crew are having experiences that they can tell stories about for the rest of their lives, as we banged the ice off the lines while leaving Lunenburg," the crew member wrote.
"This is the stuff legends are made of."