An experienced Watertown sailor who taught others to become captains died in a boating accident Saturday night when she was ejected from her 23-foot craft after hitting a shoal in the Canadian waters of the St. Lawrence River.
Rena Fearon, 41, co-owner of the Captain School, Cape Floral, Fla., was heading back to her cottage on Stave Island on the Canadian side about 11:45 p.m. when the accident occurred near Butts Island, Canadian police and U.S. Coast Guard officials said Monday.
As an owner of the Captain School, Ms. Fearon taught hundreds of mariners to get their captains license, co-owner and friend Patrick Casey said. When she was growing up, Ms. Fearon traveled extensively with her father, Calvin C. Fearon, on a sailboat up and down the Atlantic coast and throughout the Caribbean Islands.
She and her family also spent their summers boating on the St. Lawrence River, he said.
She was very familiar with the area, he said. She grew up on the river. She had a lot of local knowledge.
Mr. Casey said he would not speculate what happened, so as not to affect Canadian authorities investigation. On Saturday, Ms. Fearon had guests over for dinner at the cottage and was returning home after dropping them off on the mainland when the accident happened, he said.
The U.S. Coast Guard received a mayday that a boater had fallen out of a boat in Canadian waters. An unidentified boater pulled Ms. Fearon out of the water and took her to nearby Hill Island, where both Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard EMS teams tried to revive her, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Paul Angelillo said. She was unresponsive and was pronounced dead later at a nearby hospital, said Sgt. Kristine Rae of the Ontario Provincial Police in Smiths Falls.
Provincial police were still investigating the accident. They did not know how it happened. An autopsy was to be completed Monday, the police sergeant said.
An unidentified male passenger on the vessel was not ejected from the 23-foot Sea Hunt with a 250- horsepower outboard motor. His name was not released because he was a witness to the accident, Sgt. Rae said.
A preliminary report said that the vessel may have cut it too close to the island, Sgt. Rae said.
As co-owner of the Captain School, Ms. Fearon went to the school for two weeks at a time, where she taught would-be captains to get what is now called the U.S. Coast Guard merchant mariners credential license. She was responsible for the Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Virgin Islands territory.
On Monday, Ontario police could not say how Ms. Fearon, an experienced ship captain, could have hit the shoal in what was described as very calm, very clear water, Sgt. Rae said.
A full-time Watertown resident, she spent summers at the cottage and on the river with her two sons, Mr. Casey said.
It was her life, he said.
Recently, her son William, 11, was obtaining his safety certificate so he can operate 11- and 15-foot Boston Whalers.
In 1994, her father was involved in a boating accident when his 44-foot-long sailiboat sank nearly 300 miles from the Massachusetts coastline on its way back from Bermuda. He and a passenger were rescued uninjured.
A year earlier, Ms. Fearon escaped from a fire that destroyed her mothers century-old Victorian home on Mullin Street and $2 million in contents.