ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Five vessels spent at least 12 hours trapped by Bering Sea ice offshore of a remote Alaska island before forging a narrow escape through the giant floes early Thursday.
The 365-foot crab processor Independence, three crab boats and a freighter finally broke free early Thursday morning from the ice choking the mouth of the harbor in the tiny island village of Saint Paul.
Crews were never in any actual crisis and there were no injuries, so they never called the Coast Guard, although the agency sent a helicopter crew over the vessels Wednesday night from its local station.
But it took the vessels hours to inch through the ice piled so thick that the five people on board the 103-foot crab boat Jennifer A reported seeing two foxes running on the slabs a mile from shore, according to Stephanie Pitzman, the wife of boat captain Ian Pitzman.
Stephanie Pitzman spoke to the crew by satellite phone Thursday morning and learned they were safe, although they were anticipating some damage to the paint on the boat from knocking into ice.
But before getting that reassurance, Pitzman spent a fretful night after her husband told her the vessels were stuck just after unloading their opilio crab catch on the Independence Wednesday, she told The Associated Press in a phone interview from her home in Homer.
“Everything is so unpredictable and Mother Nature’s wrath can be fairly swift,” she said. “But Ian is a seasoned mariner, and he always errs on the side of caution.”