HALIFAX -- The Halifax Harbour ferry crew members who rescued a passenger who went overboard Wednesday afternoon say they were just doing their jobs.

It was a bit of a shock to everyone on board when the Vincent Coleman ferry stopped in the water to rescue a man who fell overboard.

While the crew practices overboard drills, they've never had to save a passenger.

"This is the first time in 39 years," said Capt. Gus Millacet.

The ferry was heading from Halifax to Alderney Landing in Dartmouth, when deckhand Blake Nugent sounded the alarm.

"I jumped into action and told the captain there was a man overboard and we went from there," Nugent said.

Said Millacet: "There's a little bit of adrenaline that kicks in at that moment, and all we think about is getting this poor guy out of the water as soon as possible because he could be under hypothermia very quick."

The captain pulled the ship parallel to the man while the crew threw out a safety net.

"It was a little bit difficult because the man was periodically unconscious, and maybe in shock and cannot help us and he was pretty heavy," said First Mate Serge Zaelako. "It was really hard to put him in the net."

So difficult, that one of the crew jumped in the water himself.

"I saw that he started to drown," said engineer Eduard Tabityan. "We had no time. I jumped. I jumped in to help."

The crew had one extra member that day -- trainee Jenny Rowlands.

It was her very first day on the job, and one she'll never forget.

"If they need me to haul a line, if they need me to get in the water, if they need me to do anything, I'll do that," Rowlands said.

Instead of scaring Rowlands off the job, the rescue has made her more focused.

"You never know when it's going to happen, and I want to be prepared and help my crew," said Rowlands, who is a relief deckhand.

The director of Halifax Transit met the crew before their shift to hand out letters of commendation.

He says he couldn't be more proud of their work.

"It was great to see that their training came into play really quickly, they worked together as a team, and they were able to bring the person out of the water before any serious harm could come to them," said Dave Reage, the director of Halifax Transit.

Halifax Transit says in more than 30 years, there have been fewer than 10 episodes of a passenger overboard and they've never had a loss of life.

The crew told me that the manoeuvre to pull alongside the victim is complicated and a lot of factors come into play. You have to get the ferry close enough to that person without injuring them

That's not easy by any measure, so the crew re-iterated how grateful they are for their training.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Emily Baron Cadloff.