October 31st 2014

The crew of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) ferry MALASPINA rescued a fisherman from a boat that sank off British Columbia in the early morning hours of Oct. 18. Two other fishermen missing in the accident are presumed to have died. The MM&P members aboard the MALASPINA at the time were Captain Scott Macaulay, Pilot Gabriel Baylous, Chief Mate Dave Turner and Mates Gary Homan, Shane Begley and Paul Kerber. The fishing boat, ATLANTIC HARVESTER 1, capsized for unknown reasons and quickly sank in the icy water.

The two missing men had disappeared before the MALASPINA arrived on the scene. “Their boat rolled over and sank so fast that there was nothing we could do for them,” Captain Macaulay said. The survivor told rescuers that he had only been able to escape the sinking boat because he was so close to the pilot house door.

The ferry crew received the distress call at 0130 as they traveled on their weekly wintertime run between Bellingham, Wash., and Ketchikan, Alaska, with several hundred passengers on board, and changed course to respond to the report of the capsized skow. “We just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Macaulay said. There was no wind and only ambient light when the MALASPINA arrived on the scene and the crew sighted the debris field, with one man in the water, waving. The ferry’s fast rescue boat was quickly dispatched with a bosun, an able-bodied seaman and an ordinary seaman on board. They plucked the survivor from the water and brought him aboard the ferry, where he was given a change of clothes and treated for hypothermia. “It was a coordinated effort,” Macaulay said. “They say ‘it takes a village’ but in the case of a rescue, it takes everyone on board the ship.”

Before being transferred to a Coast Guard vessel that had arrived on the scene, the survivor “hugged everybody on the car deck,” Macaulay said. “We were happy to have been able to save him, but you can’t help but think of the family and friends of the other two,” he added. Crews searched all daySaturday for the missing fishermen–by land, sea and air. A dive team was scheduled to continue the search as this issue of the Weekly was being distributed.