I’m not going to get into the shoulda-woulda-coulda arguments nor am I going to speculate the strengths and weaknesses of those involved. As anyone in the marine community knows, next time it could be them. This is just a telling of the event as I experienced it.
I went up to the bridge fairly early on Easter morning. Even tho it was still dark, I wanted to hear the latest ETA on getting into Akutan as I was eager to do some exploring. The night before we had tried to get thru the pass between Unalaska Island (home to Dutch Harbor) and Akutan Island, but the strong spring tide and the stormy weather made it impossible. So we went back and waited in a quiet cove until sometime late in the night for the tide change.
As I came up the stairs, I noticed the bridge was subdued and all the radios were blaring. I headed over to the ‘thingy’ (GPS?) that shows the ship’s current lat/long position so I could find our position on the chart. (Doing that is something that Capt Mark taught me how to do on my ride to Ketchikan in ’02). There is where I heard the first hushed “…men in the water…” and “…Coast Guard is reporting a mile long string of beacon lights…”
I slipped over to the bosun to ask him what was going on. He told me that a fishing vessel was taking on water and that the crew had abandoned ship. The Coast Guard and all available ships were responding in rescue mode. We were too far away to participate.
I immediately headed down to Himself’s office where I knew he and Pastor Martin were having their morning coffee time. I told them what was going on and we sent up prayers for the crew and the rescuers.
Throughout the morning I stayed up on the bridge quite a bit, listening to the news as it came in. The number of men in the water climbed from the 20s up to the 40s. During my afternoon on Akutan Island we didn’t hear anything, so I stopped by the bridge before heading to the galley for supper. The latest news was the ship was the Alaskan Ranger, and all 47 members of the crew had abandoned ship. There were at least 4 lost and one was missing.
The next day we learned the Chief Engineer who was lost was a friend of Himself’s – Chief Dan Cook. One of those saved was a friend of both of ours, 1st Assistant Engineer James Madruga. And the captain, Capt Eric Jacobsen, was a very good friend of Capt Joe.
Sometimes the fishing world is too small…
Tributes at the base of the memorial. The photo is of Capt Eric Jacobsen.