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Alaska Beat

How Wash. couple helped save man adrift for 26 hours in Alaska waters

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published October 8, 2012

When a 19-year-old fisherman went missing after his boat capsized northwest of Sitka the community jumped into action. And as a result young Ryan Harris was a fortunate survivor of a shipwreck -- not just another man lost at sea. The Bellingham Herald reports the story behind the rescue, telling the tale of a Washington couple, with ties to Alaska, who plucked Harris from a certain death.

Tele Aadsen, 35, and Joel Bradly-Power, 30, grew up in small fishing community of Sitka, where they knew each other. But it wasn't until 2004 that they got together. The two have operated the 43-foot salmon-fishing boat, Nerka, for some six years, and although they live in Bellingham, Wash., now, neither are strangers to Alaska waters. So it came as no surprise that the pair kept a watchful eye out for Harris when he was reported in trouble.

In her blog Aadsen wrote, "Fishermen are never a stronger community than in situations like this. When tragedy cuts one of us down, we all bleed."

According to the Bellingham Herald, Bradly-Power and Aadsenn had "decided to stop fishing" before the rescue. Because of rising winds, they opted for a longer but calmer route to Sitka around the north and east side of Kruzof Island, rather than face rough open waters around the south end." The two were aware that Coast Guard was still looking for Harris, so they "motored north with binoculars in hand, hoping to see him despite the poor visibility." Almost miraculously, they spotted Harris about half hour later and called the Coast Guard. A rescue helicopter was quick to the scene.

Aadsen wrote in her blog, "I stay on deck for a moment (watching the helicopter rescue) ... tears I wasn't aware of mingle with the rain on my cheeks. ... I wave to the helicopter, wishing again that body language translated. You guys are amazing. Thank you. Thank you."

Harris was mostly unharmed, save for blisters on his hands and a cut above his eye.

To read more visit the Bellingham Herald here or to see video of the rescue visit the Alaska Dispatch's coverage here.

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