Growing from sea to sky, a Yukon survivor story

It's been a year since she fell into the ocean off Brazil, but she still thinks about what could have happened if she didn't pull herself back onto the sinking SV Concordia. Trimble was the only "man overboard" on February 17, 2010.

It’s been a year since she fell into the ocean off Brazil, but she still thinks about what could have happened if she didn’t pull herself back onto the sinking SV Concordia.

Trimble was the only “man overboard” on February 17, 2010, when the ship, carrying 48 students from around the world, capsized and sank 500 kilometres off the coast of Brazil.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Trimble remembers thinking as she climbed back onto the boat, over the helm and wheel.

Once back onboard, she was instructed to change into her emergency gear.

“I remember slowly taking off my shoes and pushing them neatly to the side thinking: ‘when the ship comes back up, I’m definitely going to need my shoes,’” she says, laughing.

From there she jumped into a life raft.

It was deflating.

So she jumped out and swam to another one.

Then the boat was gone.

All of this only took about five minutes.

Then, time slowed to a crawl as Trimble, all of her classmates, and the entire crew spent 38 hours waiting to be rescued.

Thirty-eight very sea-sick hours, Trimble remembers.

The SV Concordia was home and school for the program Class Afloat, a 10-month journey between Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and Montevideo, Uruguay.

While a little bit sad thinking about her Yukon soccer team sweatshirt that went down with the boat, Trimble recognizes “it’s just a T-shirt in the end.”

One thing she did salvage was her digital camera.

Minutes before the boat capsized, when the squalls first started, everyone was told to go under deck to grab their rain gear, she says. When grabbing hers, she saw the camera on her bed and remembered her dad’s instructions to take more photos of her and her mates actually sailing, she says.

“That’s why I had my camera. It was just a regular sailing day, I didn’t know anything was going to happen,” she says.

She was the only one who had a camera.

The photos she took became an integral part of a new documentary, Abandon Ship: The Sinking of the SV Concordia.

“Erica was a key part because she had so many photos,” says director Dianne Carruthers-Wood, who began her career as a filmmaker in the

Yukon and who’s daughter was born in the territory.

The film aims to tell the story from the students’ perspective, she says.

It will be screened for the first time on CBC this Thursday and Friday.

Over the last year, Carruthers-Wood has been asked several times why she decided to do a documentary about a shipwreck where no one dies.

She remembers one flight attendant who looked at her and said, “where’s the story?”

“That is the story,” Carruthers-Wood replied. “It’s a miracle they got off this boat,” she says. They scrambled 64 people into four lifeboats and if just one person did one thing differently, it may not have happened.

“Those kids survived that day because they were there for each other,” she says.

This project was a documentary Carruthers-Wood didn’t trust anyone else with. While directing and filming is her career, this is the first project that really got personal. Carruthers-Wood’s daughter Natasha was also a student on the boat.

“It was daunting from the beginning,” she says. “You really have to let them go and they’re so young.”

Then she got the call the boat had sank and it was not known whether her daughter was alive or dead. It brought her worst nightmares to life, says Carruthers-Wood.

“They’ve looked at their own mortality at such a young age,” she says about her daughter and the other students.

“This event will bond these kids and their families together for the rest of their lives.”

Now they are working on moving on, she says.

Trimble definitely is.

Moving from the seas to the air, this now-18-year-old is working on her private pilot’s license.

“I’m adventurous,” she says laughing. “I’ve always wanted to be a pilot and traveling fascinates me.”

She will go back to sea, however. A part of her feels missing when she’s not out there, she says. And, she has no hard feelings about the Class Afloat program, saying she still recommends it to everyone.

All of her classmates are still very close, she says, and they keep in touch regularly.

And despite the sinking, the lessons she learned from the SV Concordia will always stick with her, she says.

“Before Class Afloat, I was a very stubborn person,” she says. “You learn how to deal. Your mommy’s not there to hold your hand and make your lunch for you, so you just have to deal.”

The documentary, Abandon Ship: The Sinking of the SV Concordia, premieres Thursday February 10 at 9 p.m. ET on CBC’s DocZone and repeats Friday February 11 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBC News Network.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at