All eight young people and a dog managed to make their way to safety on the evening of Nov. 30 when their 13-foot skiff capsized in Eastern Channel.
"We had a little too much stuff for the weather conditions and for how far we were going," said Porter Treadway, 19, owner of the small Boston Whaler.
With Treadway were Frank Balovic, Brian Mayville, Kate Uddipa, Jerome Habib, Thelton Rear, Ryan Hickox and Candy Childress, plus a husky-wolf mix named Zero.
The friends were headed for the U.S. Forest Service cabin at Sam Sing Cove when the boat flipped over near the red "Rocky Patch" buoy shortly before 5 p.m., Treadway said.
The air temperature at the time was about 17 degrees, with a wind-chill that brought it down to as low as 3 degrees, the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Service Station reported.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated water temperatures at about 46 degrees.
"It was pretty cold," Treadway said. "We knew we were overloaded, and we decided to turn around. The side of the boat where I was sitting, in the back, sort of tipped under water as we turned around. As soon as it happened, it was already too late for us to do anything. It happened so fast, we just tipped right over."
Balovic, the only member of the group wearing a survival suit, immediately began to swim for shore to get help. The other seven worked to right the capsized boat and paddled it to the nearest island.
A number of boats took the eight young people back to Sitka, where they were treated at Sitka Community Hospital and SEARHC.
"It was just a stupid thing to do," said Treadway. "We were just so excited to go camping, I guess we went ahead when we probably knew we shouldn't."