Coast Guard rescues 6 boaters on Admiralty

Posted: Friday, August 09, 2002

The Coast Guard rescued six stranded boaters and a Labrador retriever named Lucky in good condition from Admiralty Island shortly after 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

A seventh boater, Michael Stitt, 29, of Seattle, who was rescued from the island by a float plane Thursday morning, said no one was injured when two boats carrying him and six others were overtaken by waves Wednesday night.

The boats washed onto the beach, and one was later carried away by waves and may have sunk. The group spent the night on a beach near the beginning of Young Bay just past Horse and Colt islands, Stitt said Thursday. The bay is opposite the back side of Douglas Island.

Coast Guard spokesman Roger Wetherell said it was cold with heavy rain Wednesday, but the group members were wearing heavy-duty rain gear. The boaters also managed to salvage food from the boats, he said.

The boaters included Stitt, Darrell Wetherall, 31, Doug Green, 31, Sara Dillon, 24, and Matt Cooper, 24, all of Washington state; Okawa Yasuhiro, no age given, of Japan; and Carey Graham, 26, of British Columbia, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard first heard of the incident when Juneau police dispatch relayed a 9-1-1 cell phone call at 9:46 a.m. Thursday from Green, Wetherell said.

Six minutes later, the Coast Guard dispatched a rescue boat and the cutter Anthony Petit to the Admiralty area, he said.

Stitt said he contacted the Coast Guard about 12:40 p.m. to tell authorities where the stranded people were.

Stitt said the boaters were on their way to Admiralty Island around 5 p.m. Wednesday to stay at a cabin when the sea turned rough.

"We were kind of suckered into keeping going," Stitt said Thursday. "It would calm down for a little bit and then it would start picking up again."

Along the way the two boats - a 16-foot cutty cabin, operated by Wetherall, and an 18-foot skiff, operated by Stitt - were separated, but both boats were sticking close to the shoreline, Stitt said.

When the skiff caught up with the cutty, Stitt saw that the cutty had run out of gas, he said.

"I went to go help him, but I saw he was already getting washed up on shore," Stitt said. "The waves had to have been about six feet and pretty intense. They just overwhelmed his boat, flooded it and then beat it up on shore. It put a hole in his hull. It wasn't too fun."

As Stitt drove closer to the cutty, his skiff too was overtaken by waves. He said the water flooded the boat and contaminated the gas in the engine, causing his engine to stall and the boat to wash up on shore.

Wetherell of the Coast Guard said waves were at seven feet with 25-knot winds Wednesday about the time the boats were flooded.

Stitt said the group of boaters decided to stay on the island for the night. Around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, the pilot of a Tal Air float plane spotted the group. He had room for one passenger, and he carried Stitt back to Juneau.

Wetherell said that when the Coast Guard crew picked up the group, the skiff was still beached but the cutty was unaccounted for.

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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