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!
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
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
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.
serenades the evacuees with a great rendition of "Proud
Tim, (upper left), and Jason, (in doorway), while one of their
impromptu passengers watches the TV.
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.
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
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
On Friday, November
16, 2007 Captain Blake and the crew received a
Public Service Commendation
from the US Coast Guard.
help with rescue
reality TV star first to help cruise ship - OregonLive.com:
Breaking News Updates
Newport News-Times: Neotsu residents grounded in
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