The Coast Guard rescued five fishermen from a life raft Tuesday after they were forced to abandon their fishing vessel taking on water southeast of Sitka.
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Sitka hoisted all five people and brought them to Sitka, uninjured.
Coast Guard Sector Juneau Command Center watchstanders monitoring Channel 16 heard “Mayday, vessel Masonic going down,” at approximately 2:33 a.m. Watchstanders located the vessel’s last position south of Cape Decision via their automatic identification system (AIS) after attempts to raise the caller on the radio were unsuccessful.
Sector Juneau watchstanders requested the launch of the Sitka helicopter crew and the Petersburg-based Cutter Anacapa to the area, and issued an urgent marine information broadcast. The cruise ship Oosterdam responded to the UMIB to offer assistance.
The aircrew located the life raft on the north side of Coronation Island at approximately 4 a.m., with all five people aboard wearing cold weather survival suits. The life raft was tied off to the stern of the grounded fishing vessel.
The crew of the Masonic had requested and received a commercial fishing vessel dockside examination prior to departing on this fishing trip. A Sitka-based Coast Guard commercial fishing safety specialist examined the vessel and its equipment, including verifying the presence of emergency gear.
The crew had conducted an abandon ship drill the day before the exam, including donning the survival suits.
“This case highlights how being prepared for an emergency situation is critical in the dangerous environment that we live and work in,” said Capt. Stephen White, Sector Juneau Commander. “I’m thankful that the crew of the Masonic was prepared. It probably saved their lives. In addition, the AIS position from the vessel was instrumental in our ability to quickly locate the survivors, as it took the ‘search’ out of ‘search and rescue.’”
Pollution responders from Marine Safety Detachment Sitka are monitoring the area for any indications of pollution from the grounded vessel. The cause of the incident is under investigation.
The Masonic is a 62-foot fishing vessel homeported in Sitka.