The Defence Department confirmed Thursday it is ready to help the RCMP as it faced mounting pressure from a Nova Scotia community demanding the recovery of a capsized boat that could contain the bodies of five young fishermen.
Jay Paxton, spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, said the minister has advised the Canadian Forces to "do everything they can reasonably do, maintaining safety, to assist the situation."
But some in the community were not content to wait any longer.
The father of one of the missing fishermen said a private boat with four divers aboard left from the Halifax area Thursday to find the capsized 13-metre boat.
"So we've decided we don't want to wait any longer," said George Hopkins. "This boat could sink. There's nothing guaranteed and it's afloat right now, so we're going to search for it."
Later in the day, at least three fishing boats left the wharf at Woods Harbour as friends and neighbours yelled encouragement, some of them shouting: "Bring our boys home!"
"We're not forcing anybody's hand to do it," Hopkins said in an interview. "I've had lots of calls from people wanting to do it."
The Miss Ally, on an extended halibut fishing trip, flipped over in rough seas Sunday night amid 10-metre waves and winds approaching hurricane force.
Hopkins, whose son Joel was aboard the vessel, said the community acted because the partially submerged boat could sink at any time.
Federal search and rescue officials have said it was up to the RCMP to decide what to do because the case was handed to the Mounties when the search for the men was called off Tuesday.
Maj. Martell Thompson, spokesman for the military's Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, said a military aircraft has been dispatched to the area to determine whether the Miss Ally was still afloat.