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Rescue pulls 22 off disabled fishing vessel adrift in Bering Sea off Alaska

With Bering Sea winds blowing 35 mph and the seas rolling at up to 10 feet in height, the 160-foot Alaska Mist radioed it had lost power and was adrift 30 miles northwest of Amak Island, an uninhabited, 6-square-mile pile of rock near the end of the Alaska Peninsula. Courtesy USCG

Twenty-two crewmembers of the disabled fishing vessel Alaska Mist are safe in Dutch Harbor Thursday, thanks to a good anchor, and the combined rescue efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard, a sister ship, and the tug Resolve Pioneer.

With Bering Sea winds blowing 35 mph and the seas rolling at up to 10 feet in height, the 160-foot Alaska Mist radioed it had lost power and was adrift 30 miles northwest of Amak Island, an uninhabited, 6-square-mile pile of rock near the end of the Alaska Peninsula, more than 800 miles west of Anchorage.

As the 207-foot tug Resolve Pioneer, which arrived in Dutch Harbor in August, prepared to set to sea, the Coast Guard ordered the 418-foot security cutter Waesche to begin steaming toward the Alaska Mist and notified other mariners in the area of the ship in distress. The Alameda, Calif.-based cutter has been on patrol in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska this fall with the crab season in full swing.

A crabber was one of the first vessels to come to the aid of the Mist. A sister ship of the Mist, the 162-foot crab catcher and processor Pavlof, reached the Mist with both the Waesche and the Resolve still underway. The Pavlof, according to the Coast Guard, found the Mist riding on a drogue it had deployed. A drogue is a device mariners can attach to the stern of a boat to slow the vessel in a storm and keep the hull perpendicular to the waves.

The Pavlof took the Mist in tow and was able to slow its drift until the Resolve arrived.

Both the Mist and the Pavlof are operated by Deep Sea Fisheries out of Seattle, which markets crab, cod, black cod and other Alaska fish.

After the Resolve reached the scene, "the tug crew," according to a Coast Guard press release, "made several attempts to establish a tow before suffering a towing-equipment failure and moving off station to effect repairs."

Once again, the crew of the Alaska Mist found itself adrift, but as the ship drifted into shallower water just 10 miles from shore, the crew was able to set an anchor.

Further assistance came from both air and sea. The crew of a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was on scene Tuesday. Its crew pulled non-essential personnel off the Alaska Mist.

The Waesche then took the Mist under tow and pulled it east to near Unalaska Island where the Resolve took over to take the disabled fishing vessel to the port of Dutch Harbor. The only injury reported during the entire operation was to a Coast Guardsman who suffered unspecified injuries, according to a press release. He was taken by helicopter to the town of Cold Bay and then flown to Anchorage for medical care.

The condition of the Alaska Mist crew is unknown. The Coast Guard also is investigating the mechanical issues, which left the vessel disabled. 

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com