One man is dead after he and two others capsized in a 14-foot aluminum skiff near China Poot Bay Wednesday morning. The three men were recovered from the water a few miles off the Homer Spit by good Samaritan vessels that responded from nearby and the Homer Harbor.
Skipper Malcolm Milne of the fishing vessel Captain Cook was making a seine set nearby when his crew heard over the VHF radio there were people in the water. He told KBBI’s Kathleen Gustafson what happened next.
“(We) got closer to the skiff and saw two people by the stern and one guy holding onto the bow. We pulled up to the guy in the bow who was able to barely talk and my deckhand Rio and I were able to grab him and (get him) into our stiff. He was pretty lifeless. Couldn't move much, but he was able to talk a little bit and he said he was okay. And we started communicating with him,” Milne said. “And at the same time a couple of people that have been surfing had gotten to their skiff and they had wetsuits and were able to get the other two people into their boat. And the Casino, a charter boat, had raced over and was standing by and they were able to load those two folks into the Casino and he raced back to the harbor with them.”
Homer Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins said the Casino was undergoing a dockside Coast Guard inspection when the alert came in, and that the guard member from the Homer Marine Safety Detachment stayed onboard during the response.
Milne said the passenger he rescued recovered quickly and walked off the F/V Captain Cook when he was returned to Homer.
“We brought our guy back to our bigger boat, loaded him on. He was a gentleman from Anchorage, he said. And he, at that point was improving, not getting worse. So we were able to get him into a bunk with some warm clothes and warm him up and bring him back to the harbor. And by the time we got back to the harbor he was very conscious, and then he was actually able to walk off the boat with the EMTs who met us at the load and launch ramp,” Milne said. “And Vince Tillion and his son were able to grab the other two guys laying on the stern. And the one guy was not in very good shape, but I am not going to speculate on that, but he just looked pretty lifeless. And the other guy was driving the boat I believe and was saying, 'help my son help my son.' I'm just praying for him.”
City of Homer spokesperson Jenny Carroll said all three men aboard the small boat were wearing life preservers.
“My understanding from talking to Chief Kirko with the fire department, is that the skiff capsized after a large wave came in from the stern and there were two good Samaritan boats in the area,” Carroll said. “One picked up two passengers. They were both suffering from hypothermia and one passenger was CPR in progress when they were met at the load and launch ramp.”
Capt. Milne cautions inexperienced boaters about the treacherous waters of Kachemak Bay.
“So my one thing is that I really would urge anybody to respect Kachemak Bay and especially that China Poot Rip, because it builds up in a hurry. And if you have a west wind, or any wind and sometimes no wind, it can build up,” Milne said. “So just respect, respect Kachemak Bay. It is a dangerous, dangerous place and can turn quickly. So please know what you're doing if you're going out there.”
Though it’s unknown the purpose of the vessel’s trip, dipnet fishing opened to Alaska residents on China Poot Creek on July 1, so vessel traffic near China Poot Bay has increased. China Poot Bay is about three-and-a-half miles from the end of the Homer Spit.
The name of the deceased and the others aboard the skiff were not immediately available.
*This story has been updated.