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 F/V Evening Star

   
The rescue of passengers from the cruise ship

                             "Empress of the North"

     When the phone rings in the wee small hours of the morning anyone's initial reaction is a bit of a fright. To us, the words that came through the heavy static on the phone line were stunning. "We are tied up next to a cruise ship that is sinking."

     And then the satellite phone went dead.

     That was it for us, no going back to sleep on that one.  The words "cruise ship" had us envisioning one of those floating Goliaths with thousands aboard. Tied up to one of those mega-ships that was sinking? Why, that could suck our little boat down with it!

     Eventually we turned on the television to learn that a paddle wheel cruise ship had gone aground in Icy Straight and the passengers were being evacuated. Early reports gave varying vessel lengths and numbers of people aboard, degrees of "list" etc.

     Finally Blake's cell phone kicked in and he was able to call to let us know that they were fine and that they had 33 people aboard the Evening Star from the Empress of the North!  Things were intense, there were emergency life rafts floating everywhere and other boats coming in to help. He would call back when he could.

     There was quite a bit of news coverage of this event.  There are writers better than I, so I will add some links at the end of this for those of you who are interested.

 Here are some photos sent to us by Lori who was one of those evacuated onto the Evening Star:

         

View of the Empress of the North  taken from the deck of the F/V Evening Star.

 

              

Jon serenades the evacuees with a great rendition of "Proud Mary"

 

Tim, (upper left), and Jason, (in doorway), while one of their impromptu passengers watches the TV.

 

A few of the guests from the Empress of the North on the back deck of the F/V Evening Star.

 

     At 1:30 am Alaska Time an emergency call came over the marine VHF radio.  “Pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan! This is the cruise ship Empress of the North! We have struck rocks at (gave latitude and longitude)”! There was no mistaking the panic in the voice of the caller. Blake realized that they were very close to the vessel in distress and advised the Coast Guard and Empress that he was en route to render aid. They advise him that the boat was taking on water and that the abandon ship order had been given. The Captain of the Empress asked the Evening Star to “please get here as soon as you can.”

     Blake went down and woke the crew, Jon, Tim and Jason.  They knew the water was a cold 42 degrees so they got a survival suit ready just in case they needed to go in after someone. At that time they had no idea of what to expect, and were fearful of a worst case scenario.

     The Evening Star was the first to arrive at the scene. The Empress had drifted from the original point of impact and was coming close to another set of rocks. The Empress was listing to such a degree that Blake thought it would roll over. The rails of the Empress were almost touching the poles of the Evening Star. (The poles are almost as tall as the mast and when retracted sit only a few feet off the mast). The crew set up stairs and passengers began evacuating the Empress.

     The Evening Star reminded the Coast Guard and Empress that it had nearly 30,000 pounds of halibut in her hold. She took on 33 people, and was prepared to take on more but the Empress decided that 33 people was enough. The F/V Willow arrived and they took 12 people aboard. The passengers of the Empress were very calm and collected.

     The house area of most fishing boats is not very big and can only accommodate a few people. The back deck of the Evening Star has what is called a shelter house, but it is open on both ends and there is no heat. Blake was concerned for the welfare and comfort of his passengers, many were still in their night clothes, and had the Empress crew provide blankets and coats for all.

     Eventually the Tugboat Tiger arrived at the scene. The Tiger had sufficient deck space and low enough rails that the Evening Star and the Willow could tie along side of her and let their evacuees board the tug. They were prepared to ferry more passengers from the Empress when the Coast Guard arrived.

     At the request of the Coast Guard and the Empress, the F/V’s Evening Star, Willow and Seaview stood by for several hours in case they were needed.

     It is such a blessing that it all ended well with no injuries. One thing that I can tell you is that they were stunned by all of the media attention and do not consider themselves hero's in any way.  They are just American fishermen doing what was needed.

Blake received a thank you from the US Coast Guard. To see it   click here.

On Friday, November 16, 2007 Captain Blake and the crew received a Public Service Commendation from the US Coast Guard.

Astoria fishers help with rescue     

Astoria fisherman, reality TV star first to help cruise ship - OregonLive.com: Breaking News Updates

Newport News-Times: Neotsu residents grounded in adventure

Letter: BIG thanks

Here is one of the emails we recieved:

Thank you for coming to our aid Monday morning.  Thank you is not enough.  We were rescued by Captain Blake and his crew  Monday morning.  They made coffee and Jon sang and played his guitar for all of us.  We will do the best we can to Pay It forward to someone else in need.  MAY GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU
JOHN AND ELAINE WOODWORTH

 

*

     This is not the first rescue that the F/V Evening Star has been involved in. When she was  known as the F/V Sea Valley, owned and skippered by Mr. John Figueiredo, our boat was involved in the rescue and recovery of 24 people aboard a DC-3 which crashed upon take-off at Shelter Cove, California.

 

 

 

F/V Evening Star LLC 2007