05/14/07 It’s always gratifying to see these Bering sea fishermen give a helping hand when needed. Captain Blake Painter of the F/V Maverick, who skippers his family’s vessel–F/V Evening Star–during part of the year, is no different. He was in the area of a distress call, and he stepped up to the plate and came to the rescue. Good going Blake!
Update: Astoria crabbers help evacuate cruise ship that hit a rock southwest of Juneau
Posted by Associated Press May 14, 2007 12:24PM
A cruise ship ran aground and was taking on water in Icy Strait, and passengers were being transferred to other vessels early today, Coast Guard officials said.
The Empress of the North, carrying 281 passengers and crew, was listing 6 degrees after hitting Hanus Rock at the southern end of the strait about 15 miles southwest of Juneau, said Petty Officer Christopher D. McLaughlin at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak.
Passengers were transferred to numerous private vessels, including other cruise ships, and by daybreak those remaining aboard were being taken aboard the Spirit of Columbia, a smaller vessel operated by Cruise West of Seattle, McLaughlin said.
“Many good Samaritan boats on scene are taking off passengers,” he said. “The fishing vessels Evening Star and Willow were able to moor up to the cruise ship, and 33 passengers transferred from the Empress of the North to the Evening Star and 12 passengers to the Willow.”
The Daily Astorian reports that one of the first good Samaritan vessels was the Evening Star, which has ties to Astoria.
Blake Painter, a second-generation fisherman from Astoria, is known to many from his appearances on the Discovery channel show “Deadliest Catch,” which followed the Warrenton-based vessel Maverick on treacherous trips through the Bering Sea. Painter remains the Maverick’s engineer, but at this time of year he runs his family’s crabber, the Evening Star, one of several boats that helped to evacuate the cruise ship passengers.The Evening Star was headed home to Oregon with 30,000 pounds of halibut when it heard a mayday call at about 1 a.m., said Painter, the Evening Star’s captain.
“We realized we were only five miles from their position and could see them, so we put it into overdrive and got there as quick as we could,” Painter said. “When we got there, the ship was listing hard to the starboard side, and they were starting to launch life rafts. We pulled up along the port side and started taking passengers.”
He said the 56-foot crabber’s crew members — Jason Ficken, Tim Kindred and Jon Fasching, all of Astoria and Warrenton — were “ready to accommodate as many people as we could.”
“The passengers were all senior citizens, and they were surprisingly upbeat when they got on here,” Painter said. “We gave them some coffee, and Jon played them some guitar.”
The Evening Star later transferred the passengers to a tug boat and to the Coast Guard, he said.
A Coast Guard fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter were dispatched after an emergency radio message was received at 12:35 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time from the ship, operated by Majestic America Line of Seattle, McLaughlin said.
There were no reports of injury, nor was there any immediate word on damage, and McLaughlin said the reason for the grounding was unclear.
According to the company’s Web site, the Empress of the North is a “newly built” sternwheeler with a 24-hour bar and grill, a crew of 84, 112 staterooms for 223 passengers and “a robust modern diesel propulsion system.”
The American-built ship is billed by the company as the only overnight paddlewheel vessel in use on Alaskan cruises and also is used on cruises on the Columbia River between Washington state and Oregon.
The Empress of the North ran aground at buoy 49 on Ough Reef in the Columbia River in March 2006, stranding 250 passengers plus crew.
McLaughlin said the Coast Guard’s initial report listed the ship as 299 feet long, while the Web site gave the length as 360 feet.