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A 64-foot schooner carrying 23 people capsized and sank...

LITTLE DEER ISLE, Maine -- A 64-foot schooner carrying 23 people capsized and sank during a rainstorm Wednesday, tossing vacationers and crewmen into the cold waters of Penobscot Bay, where they were quickly rescued.

'The schooner began tilting and then all of a sudden we were in the water,' said Becky Burkey, a passenger from Texas.

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'It was a Twilight Zone situation and (we were) grabbing onto floating objects and trying to follow the skipper's orders to get away from the schooner,' Burkey said.

'I'm just glad to be here,' she said, while recovering at Oakland House lodge in Brooksville.

'They were struck with a gust of wind and the boat just capsized. The boat went down within seconds,' said Basil Ladd of Brooksville, who rescued a dozen people in an outboard motorboat.

Two people were hospitalized for treatment of hypothermia and were in good condition, officials said. Three others who suffered minor hypothermia were treated and released.

'It took two people to get them aboard because they were so cold,' Ladd said. 'I don't know the temperature of the water, but it was some cold.'

The Isaac Evans, a windjammer boat that was carrying tourists on a week-long cruise of the Maine coast, was toppled by a wind squall on a half-mile-wide strait between little Deer Isle and the mainland, said Robert Evans, a Coast Guard spokesman.

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The ship capsized about a quarter of a mile from shore in waters about 60 feet deep, he said.

'She's sitting on the bottom with some of the mast showing,' said Deer Isle Fire Chief Richard Haskell.

Ladd, a volunteer fireman who runs a marine store about four miles away, was notified of the accident shortly after it happened. He and another man drove a 22-foot outboard through rain and fog to help with the rescue.

Ladd picked up 12 people. Another man in a raft picked up five others, he said.

Five more paddled to shore aboard a raft and one passenger, wearing a life preserver, swam to shore, officials said.

'We sped right down there as fast as we could, but the water was pretty rough on the way down and we couldn't see anything,' Ladd said.

'We could see debris scattered the length of Eggemoggin Reach, so we followedit in a straight line until we could see some people in the water,' Ladd said.'We couldn't see the people until we were right on top of them. When we arrived, we found a group of 12 people clinging to an overturned rowboat.'

The schooner, built in 1886, was used as a tour boat by North End Shipyard of Rockland. The boat was making its final trip of the season, providing one-week tours of the rocky Maine coast.

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