On April 18, 2016, myself and two other seasoned captains of offshore fishing set out on our shakedown fishing trip to kick off our 2016 season .......

By Captain John Waring, the I in the story!


On April 18, 2016, myself and two other seasoned captains of offshore fishing set out on our shakedown fishing trip to kick off our 2016 season. We have fished offshore for 20 years in the areas out of Neah Bay and down the coast as far as Umatilla Reef.

The ocean was very favorable for fishing that day.

It was beautiful, sunny and warm, a day that would be a record-setter for warmth for this season, there was an offshore wind of about 5-7 knots and seas about 4-5 feet at 10-12 sec. These conditions usually allowed us to fish most of our favorite spots safely. Drum roll!

We started at Duncan Rock north of Tatoosh but the onshore swell was a little rough. We put one nice sea bass in the fish bucket. We headed south to a reef inside of Strawberry Rock at the south end of Makah Bay which we have fished for years with great success. The incoming tide was surging a little so we stayed to the north side of the reef to avoid the surge and had a few bites.

After fishing for about 10 minutes, making it around 10:35 a.m., my two crew mates, Randy and Mickey, were casting into the reef area when I heard Randy yell, “Get us out of here!” I looked to that side and saw a 20-foot plus wall of white water coming right down on us. It came out of nowhere with no warning, a rogue wave! It hit us with the force of a tank on the port side near the stern.

The force was so great that Randy was thrown 30 feet from the boat, Mickey dove for the deck and was slammed into it! I was slammed against the throttle controls with my shoulder and with my hand on the wheel! My little finger was immediately dislocated! The force of the water flipped the boat over completely and it rolled back right as the water passed. We were drenched. When the water cleared from my eyes, I saw my boat almost sunk with water, Mickey laying in water to the gunnels and Randy nowhere to be seen. We called out as Randy came to the surface!

Running to the cabin I grabbed the life jackets and threw them to Mickey, one for him and one for Randy. Mickey assisted Randy getting into the swamped boat. I then grabbed the radio mike which was on channel 16.


This was received at 10:45 a.m. It was a miracle that it worked since the batteries were underwater. I heard some response but couldn’t be sure of what was said. I reached in and grabbed a lifejacket for myself and the water-activated jacket. I looked for my waterproof phone but it had been thrown out of the boat. I noticed that the sea bass we had caught earlier was swimming loose in the boat!

My crew was in the boat by this time with their lifejackets on, floating in the water sloshing in the boat. Water was coming in over the sides. I called again on the radio but couldn’t hear anything. I noticed my dislocated finger and pulled and then pushed it back in place so I could use my hand. At about 10:50 a.m. another swell rolled the boat over and my crew were thrown out, I was trapped near the console underwater. I broke free and came to the surface.

Randy and Mickey were reaching for the bottom-up boat and the bottom of the motor which was sticking up. It was at, or slightly under water. Randy hooked his legs around the motor under water and held on to the prop part. He hooked his arms through the inflated jacket and Mickey hooked onto my jacket. We still hadn’t snapped our jackets closed! I climbed up on the hull with my legs straddling the motor. Swells were washing over us and the boat every so often. The sun warmed my soaked back and I was able to lock Randy’s life jacket and mine. It was a matter of just holding on.

The tide was coming in so the boat was being slowly pushed toward shore but it was still a long way to the beach. I looked at my watch as we settled down to wait; it was 11:15 a.m. We kept encouraging one another. Randy was the most submerged and was getting the coldest. Mickey pulled himself up on the hull and lay flat behind me. Part of his body was out of the water at times. As we saw the minutes tick away, it seemed like forever. At 11:30 a.m. Randy was getting numb and losing strength. Mickey was starting to go quiet as well. We were all encouraging one another. God spoke His peace to my heart and I knew that it was going to be OK!

At 11:35 a.m. Mickey saw the Coast Guard helicopter on the horizon from the north. Since I was sitting, I started waving my hands and holding up the yellow inflatable. They saw us and circled to get the attention of the 49-footer coming in from the seaward side. Just knowing that help was near seemed to give us some extra strength to hold on!

At about 11:50 a.m., the Coast Guard boat came along side of us and I motioned for them to take Randy first as he was the coldest, being completely in the water. He was unable to do much as he was immobilized by hypothermic cold — it took them several tries to get him in, and they finally did.

I asked them to take Mickey next but they missed him and grabbed me. I was able to climb in. Mickey was grabbed next. With us on board they headed back out to sea since they only had a foot of water under their keel. The water was 52 degrees. They covered us with wool blankets and put stocking caps on our heads. Soon they took Randy and Mickey down into the cabin where they worked them over to warm them up. I stayed on deck and they covered me up to keep me warm. It seemed like it took forever to get back to Neah Bay.

When we got there, there were three ambulances waiting to take us to the emergency clinic where EMS personnel, the nurses and doctors took over to get us stabilized. They did an awesome job! The senior nurse at the clinic told us in the four years that she had been there, we were one of the few to survive such a catastrophic accident.

To be in the 52-degree water for almost an hour usually ends in death! We weren’t released until after four in the afternoon. The Neah Bay officers informed me that the boat already had been pushed up on Sandy Beach by the incoming tide. This was one of the few areas that was accessible by vehicle. I asked them to go ahead and salvage it if possible.

Before we left Neah Bay for our trip back home to Clallam Bay, they already had gotten a salvage party organized and by the time we got home, the boat was back on its trailer and at Big Salmon.

We want to applaud and thank the incredible team work with Coast Guard Station Neah Bay, the EMS services Neah Bay and the emergency clinic with its incredible staff for saving our lives. We will forever be grateful to God and these incredible, dedicated public servants for saving our lives.