NEAH BAY, Wash. — Coast Guard crews rescued five fisherman, who had to abandon ship due to flooding while west of Cape Alava, Wednesday.
A 47-foot Motor Life Boat crew from Coast Guard Station Quillayute River safely took the fishermen aboard and transported them to Coast Guard Station Neah Bay with no reported medical concerns.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound received a report at 1:14 p.m. the 87-foot fishing vessel Sunnfjord was flooding and with all their dewatering pumps running the crew was unable to keep up with the rising water. Crews aboard the Coast Guard Cutters Cuttyhunk and Swordfish, an MH-65 dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, the MLB from Station Quillayute River and an MLB from Station Neah Bay responded, as well as good Samaritans aboard the vessels Island Voyager and Equinox, and the crew of the vessel Eclipse.
While responders were in route, the fishermen reported they had their survival suits on, life jackets, that captain put his cell phone in a plastic bag to help keep it dry as they were experiencing issues with their handheld radio and the water had risen in the engine room to above the floor boards.
The helicopter crew has been conducted training when they were diverted for the response. The initial plan was for them to pick up a dewatering pump from the air station, but as the nature of the distress worsened, the plan changed and they were to head straight to the Sunnfjord after refueling at station Neah Bay.
Once the crew of the Cuttyhunk was on scene, the captain stated to sector watchstanders that he wanted to dewater and not abandon ship. The watchstanders requested he use his radio to coordinate the transfer of a dewatering pump from the Cuttyhunk crew. However, the Sunnfjord lost main engine as the water continued to rise.
Both good Samaritan crews were asked at that point to stand down while the crew of the Equinox, another vessel owned by the same company as the Sunnfjord, stayed on scene to support if needed.
Unable to start either of two pumps passed from the Cuttyhunk crew or keep up with the rising water, the fishermen prepared to abandon ship. The crew of the Cuttyhunk readied their rescue swimmer, but the MLB from Station Quillayute River arrived and was able to pick up the fishermen instead.
The crew of the Cuttyhunk remained on scene to observe the condition of the Sunnfjord, which sank approximately six miles offshore in an estimated 300-foot water with a about 800 gallons of diesel reported aboard.
The Cuttyhunk, a 110-foot patrol boat, and the Swordfish, an 87-foot patrol boat are both homeported in Port Angeles.