SEATTLE — Before Alaska crabber Brock Rainey headed out to start a new season, he checked in with his longtime friend Mike Daily. This winter was no different.
“Tossing lines for the Bering Sea today...Love you brother,” Rainey texted in the hours before the boat he crewed on — the Scandies Rose — left Kodiak on Monday.
The 130-foot vessel never reached its next port. The boat capsized and sank New Year’s Eve near Sutwik Island off the Alaska Peninsula. A Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued two crew members — including a man from Edmonds.
Rainey and four others, including two men from Washington, were not found during a 20-hour search that was called off Wednesday night.
The boat had years of experience working the Alaska snow crab and king crab harvests, and also fished for Pacific cod. Family and friends who had hoped for another successful year are now grieving.
“I fished in my early 20s, and we know the risks,” Daily said Thursday. “But it is incomprehensible to think that it is a friend who has been lost.”
The Scandies Rose’s co-owner, Dan Mattsen, said the boat was managed out of Seattle and home-ported in Dutch Harbor, in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The crew was identified Thursday by the Coast Guard.
The boat was skippered by Gary Cobban Jr., who his younger sister, Deanna Cobban, described as from a family of Kodiak, Aka., crabbers.
He was identified as among the missing along with his son, David Cobban, of Kodiak, Rainey, who lived in Idaho, and Arthur Ganacias and Seth Rousseau-Gano, both from Washington.
The two survivors are Dean Gribble Jr., of Edmonds and John Lawler, of Alaska. They were treated at Providence Kodiak Medical Center and released Wednesday, according to Carlie Franz, a senior communications specialist at the hospital.
Gribble and Lawler fought hard to survive, according to Gribble’s father, Dean Gribble Sr., an Alaska crab-boat captain, who said his son was now back in Washington state.
Dean Gribble Sr. said his son told him the boat went down fast. His son and Lawler, after they put on their survival suits, were knocked off the boat by a wave. They made their way into the life raft, which was released as the boat sank, said Gribble Sr.
Lawler, reached Thursday, said, “It’s pretty terrible.” He declined to say more, explaining he needed more time before talking about what happened.
The Coast Guard responded to a mayday call from the boat around 10 p.m. Tuesday. Coast Guard officials describe a harrowing search and rescue effort in rough seas and strong winds. Aircraft were deployed out of Air Station Kodiak to an area some 180 miles to the southwest, near Sutwik Island off the Alaska Peninsula.
Coast Guard crew involved in the rescue told the Kodiak Daily Mirror they did not see the boat, nor any debris.
They spotted two life rafts. One had a blinking light but was found to be empty. They found a second raft a half-mile away, around 2 a.m. Wednesday. Gribble and Lawler, in the raft for four hours, were wearing survival suits.
“They were ambulatory. They didn’t have any medical issues, they were just severely hypothermic,” Coast Guard rescue swimmer Evan Grills told the Daily Mirror. Grills was lowered from a helicopter to help Gribble and Lawler into a hoist.
Lt. Kevin Knaup, a HC-130 Hercules aircraft commander, told the Daily Mirror, “Everything was working against being able to find these two people.” Wind gusts of up to 57 mph and 20- to 30-foot seas, Knaup said. It was 10 degrees, with a wind chill of -4.
National Weather Service marine forecasts for the area where the Scandies Rose went down predicted heavy freezing spray, which can coat a boat and the pots stacked on it with ice. The added weight can make a vessel more unstable, so crews work to knock off the ice.
The boat’s sinking has created an anguished start to the new year.
Daily said his friend Brock Rainey was a Marine vet who loved motorcycles and was always willing to reach out to others to lend a hand. He had fished crab for years off Alaska, and in his Monday text messages, expressed no concern about the upcoming voyage to start harvesting cod and crab in the Bering Sea.
“He really loved the lifestyle. He would work real hard, save up his money and then go travel,” said Zed Blue, the boat’s owner and skipper. “He was my main guy.”
Blue said Rousseau-Gano worked aboard a salmon boat this summer in Bristol Bay, and while there got an offer to crew during crab season on the Scandies Rose. Blue got a call from Rousseau-Gano asking whether he should take the job. He gave an answer that now brings some regret.
“I totally endorsed it. It was a really nice boat with a really good skipper.”