Sitka, AK Boat Accident, Nov 1979

Pair Rescued After Boat Goes Aground

Two Sitkans were rescued cold but unharmed this morning after their boat capsized about 10 a.m. in high winds at Seven Fathom Bay, about 18 miles south of Sitka.

Former Superintendent of Schools Neland HAAVIG and Norman WILSON were in HAAVIG’S 37 foot troller Daylight anchored in the bay when the wind “started blowing easterly about 40-50 miles per hour,” HAAVIG said. “We were really bouncing around so we decided to head for Goddard. But when we got out, the wind was from 180 degrees the other direction.”

The men first headed into the wind, then turned to go with it and pushed for shore.

“But a terrific gust of wind blew us right over,” HAAVIG said. He got off a mayday call before the two crawled out of the cabin door, which fortunately was out of the water.

Winds blew the boat onto rocks about 30 feet from shore, and the men clung to the boat’s side until the Coast Guard helicopter arrived about half an hour later.

“I got dumped a couple of times trying to get one of the skiffs loose,” HAAVIG said. But both that skiff and one that was being pulled capsized, too.

“I honestly didn’t think we’d make it,” he said. “We’re lucky to be still walking around.”

The boat, HAAVIG’s livelihood, is probably a total loss, he said. “The winds were really banging it around.”

Another casualty was the deer the two hunters had bagged earlier on their trip.

HAAVIG said he appreciated the speed with which the Coast Guard responded to the call. “It seemed like a couple of days, of course, but they really got there fast,” HAAVIG said. “They did a beautiful job of rescuing us – slick as a whistle.”

After the two were hoisted into the helicopter basket they were brought to Sitka and checked for hypothermia at Sitka Community Hospital.

Coast Guard crewmen making the rescue were Lt. Cmdr. Mike BURNETT, Lt. Cmdr. Ray HINER, AT2 Rick CHESLO and AD2 Ronald HENDRICKS.

Daily Sitka Sentinel, Sitka, AK 30 Nov 1979