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Alaska 2008
  • Territory: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: April - August, 5200 miles traveled
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Primary Activity: Wait for the sun to come out.

Copyright © 2008, P. Lutus. All rights reserved.   Message Page

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This article set is part of a larger work:
Alaska 2002 | Alaska 2003 | Alaska 2004 | Alaska 2005 | Alaska 2006 | Alaska 2007


My regular readers may know my two favorite things in Alaska are:

  • Seeing a fox
  • Rescuing someone

If I see a fox, red fox, blue fox, doesn't matter, it makes my day — they're beautiful and clever. It's hard for a day to turn sour after encountering a fox. And if I can rescue someone, well, what can I say?

This year's rescue took place near Auke Bay, north of Juneau. As I passed Strauss Rock on my way in from Icy Strait, I heard someone calling for help on a handheld radio. The Coast Guard answered and got the details — an 18-foot Lund runabout equipped with two outboards and five people on board, stuck on a beach on the west side of Portland Island. It seems that both outboards were dead. As the Coast Guard was gathering the details, I figured out where they were — only three miles away, at about 58° 20.0' N, 134° 44.54' W. Before the Coast Guard could make their general call for help, I got on the radio and volunteered to pick them up.

I perform a lot of rescues, but I'm not a professional and there's always something I don't anticipate. It was obvious that this was a bit more complicated than a normal open-water rescue, where you simply drive up to a disabled boat in deep water, attach a line, and tow it to safety. In this case I would have to move into shallow water, somehow get the boat off the shore into a reasonable depth, then perform a normal rescue.

The wind was blowing briskly, but from a favorable direction, one that wouldn't push me onto the beach during the transfer phase. So I moved into about 15-20 feet of water, which only got me within 100 yards of the boat. I got the boat's crew to row off the beach and come out to me, and we made contact. Then I had to get everyone off the runabout and into my boat (towing a small boat full of people didn't seem like a very good idea).

The adult crew, both skilled sailors, were able to assist the rescue by holding the runabout against the aft end of my boat and resist the afternoon chop's tendency to push us apart. One of the boat's passengers had some difficulty getting off the runabout, and that could have turned into a real emergency if she had lost her footing, but it came out all right.

I always tow boats at the end of a long line because it's more efficient, all the more reason to get everyone off the disabled vessel and into mine. Then, when I get to the marina, I shorten the line to be able to maneuver in close quarters. In this rescue, everything went smoothly.


Ethanol-Blended Fuels. Since this summer's rescue, I've thought about the fact that neither outboard could be started, and I have begun to read that ethanol-blended fuels can cause serious mechanical problems for outboards. It seems that ethanol-blended fuels are now so common that it may be difficult or impossible to acquire outboard fuel without any ethanol. It's also possible that people may not know about the connection between ethanol and outboard failures. I would love to ask this question of the people I rescued, unfortunately, I've lost their contact information.

Rethinking a bigger rescue. A few years ago, as I was approaching Homer, a large cabin cruiser with ten people on board lost all power and radioed for help. I went out, attached a line, and towed the boat to the marina. I now realize I should have gotten everyone off the disabled boat and onto mine before commencing the tow. If there had been any kind of emergency on the towed vessel, such as someone falling overboard, they might have lost sight of the victim before they could have radioed me to stop towing. I just didn't think about it at the time, but it's dangerous to tow an occupied boat.

Some pictures:

Blue fox, Onion Bay, Raspberry Island
(west side of Kodiak Island)
Red fox, Onion Bay, Raspberry Island
(west side of Kodiak Island)
(two foxes on the same day, in the same place!)
Rescue I: Able-bodied crew rows out to my boat
Rescue II: Tying up to the dock in Auke Bay

If you think there's no imaginable connection between the fox and rescue pictures ... oh, well, I guess you're right.


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