The crab fishing vessel Arctic Hunter rests on the rocks near Morris Cove on Unalaska Island on Sunday afternoon. The vessel ran aground early in the morning of Nov. 1. The crew was safely evacuated by another fishing boat. - Jim Paulin

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Captain's nap crashes crabber

November 8th, 2013 | Jim Paulin Print this article   Email this article  

An unfortunate nap caused the destruction of a fishing boat and fuel spill the night of Halloween, but no injuries were reported to the crew of the crabber that crashed ashore within sight of Dutch Harbor.

The crab boat Arctic Hunter ran aground outside of Unalaska last week after the captain fell asleep at the wheel, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

"He reported that he fell asleep at the wheel, and the vessel ran aground," said Coast Guard spokesman Shawn Eggert in Anchorage on Monday. Eggert declined to identify the mariner, citing a continuing investigation into the early morning maritime mishap near Morris Cove on Unalaska Island .

Vessel owner Jim Stone said the boat had completed its king crab fishing season, and was on its way out to sea to retrieve crab pots when the vessel grounded.

"We're horrified by the incident, and absolutely thrilled that nobody got hurt," Stone said.

The grounding was reported at about 3:45 a.m. Nov. 1. All six crew members were safely removed by the Good Samaritan fishing vessel Saga, Eggert said.

The vintage fishing vessel has fished its last season and has a future only as scrap metal, thanks to a punishing surf that broke open most of the fuel tanks, according to a local marine salvage expert.

"We'll get the wreckage out of there, but I'm afraid that's all we've got to work with now," said Dan Magone, of Resolve Magone Marine Services in Unalaska. He said the 102-foot-long boat had an estimated 12,500 gallons of fuel onboard, and much of it spilled from ruptured tanks.

"They were all full" when the vessel grounded, Magone said."A substantial amount of oil was lost."

Magone said salvage crews recovered 4,500 gallons of fuel mixed with water from one tank, while several other tanks were "holed." Magone said the boat ended up atop bedrock and stuck in between large rocks, and battered by surf from an ongoing storm.

Magone said that no crab pots or crab were on board the vessel, which has been widened and lengthened from its original size. He said two Resolve Magone salvage vessels responded, the Western Viking and Redeemer.

Stone said the vessel was formerly named Arctic Fox, and earlier, Endurance.

Unalaska city natural resources manager Frank Kelty said the vessel was built in 1978 in the Bender shipyard in Mobile, Ala.

The Bender boats had a horrible reputation for sinking in the 1980s, said Kelty, the former crab manager of Alyeska Seafoods in Unalaska.

"There aren't very many of them left. Most of them have already sunk," Kelty said. "There was a name we used to call them back in the heyday of the king crab fishery. We used to call them 'Bender-overs' because they would roll over."

The Bristol Bay red king fishery was 80 percent complete on Monday, with a harvest of 6.9 million pounds, from a quota of 8.6 million, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. Of the 60 boats that registered, 27 were still fishing for the big crustaceans with an average weight of about 6.5 pounds.

The season opened on Oct. 15, and closes officially on Jan. 15, though all or nearly all the crab should be harvested before the end of this month.

A few vessels even got off to an early start fishing for snow crab, in a fishery that doesn't get going in a big way until January. A total of three deliveries have been made of the smaller snow, or opilio, crab, according to Fish and Game.

Kelty said the base price per pound for the red king crab is $6.34, less than fisherman earned last year.

The grounded vessel has turned into a popular attraction. Over the weekend, local residents traveled to the end of the road, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Arctic Hunter from Morris Cove. However, the vessel was aground around the corner, out of sight of the road, requiring a long walk down the rocky beach to see the stricken vessel.


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