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Newmarket family recovering after being stranded at sea for 17 hours

A whale watching ship (foreground), stranded 20 miles off the coast of Boston, is pictured, June 29, 2014. The Boston Harbor Cruises whale watch vessel was freed Tuesday and docked at Boston's Long Wharf shortly after 8 a.m., some 17 hours after the voyage began. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Craig Bawden

An Ontario man who was stranded with his family and about 150 strangers on a whale-watching boat off the coast of Massachusetts overnight says it was like being stuck in a rolling McDonald’s — with a side of seasickness.

Craig Bawden’s family was among 157 passengers who were forced to spend 17 hours on the vessel after it got caught on a mooring cable Monday afternoon.

It was a “miserable” experience, he said, a far cry from the three-hour whale-watching trip the Newmarket family had expected.

“The boats are made for buying something at the snack bar and sitting inside briefly while you ride out there,” he said over the phone from Boston, where he and his family were recovering Tuesday.

“So it was kind of like being in a McDonald’s or in an airport that’s rolling at sea for a day.”

Many of the passengers, including Bawden’s 10-year-old daughter, suffered seasickness during the night, he said. Bawden’s son, however, enjoyed the adventure.

“My eight-year-old son was quite amused and had a great time, but he was probably the only person on the whole ship,” Bawden said. “The rest of us had a sleepless night, and there was a stench in the air from people being seasick.”

U.S. Coast Guard officials said divers were brought to the scene about 20 kilometres offshore Monday night, but were unable to detach the cable, and an attempt to transfer the passengers to another vessel was aborted because of the rough seas.

People slept like stranded airport passengers, sprawling where they could, Bawden said.

“My wife and daughter made a little cubbyhole of life-jackets underneath one of the stairwells, and the coast guard provided blankets,” he said. Young children and elderly passengers were in a lot of distress, Bawden said.

He said the whale watching company handled the situation as well as they could have, refunding the cost of the voyage and promising $500 compensation per person.

The vessel was in a “restricted management area” when it got stuck, Boston Harbor Cruises said. The company planned meetings with the captain and crew but said it would defer to the coast guard’s findings “as to whether or not operator error was a contributing factor to the entanglement.”

With files from The Associated Press