BELLINGHAM – A Bellingham couple was instrumental in the rescue of a man adrift for 26 hours in a plastic fish bin in Alaskan waters.
Tele Aadsen and Joel Brady-Power may have saved 19-year-old Ryan Harris, left afloat in open seas after his boat capsized northwest of Sitka, Alaska.
They were on their way back to shore on their 43-foot salmon-fishing boat after hearing a Coast Guard report about a missing fisherman.
The 28-foot aluminum boat with Harris and a crewmate had capsized Friday afternoon near the south end of Kruzof Island. They had no radio or cellphone, but friends reported them missing Friday night.
By Saturday morning, boaters in the area heard reports about the missing fishermen.
“Fishermen are never a stronger community than in situations like this. When tragedy cuts one of us down,” Aadsen wrote in her blog.
Shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday, a search vessel found Harris’ crewmate alive on a beach. The crewmate had managed to don a survival suit after hitting the water.
Harris didn’t have a survival suit, but was wearing a float coat, a warm jacket with buoyancy. At one point, according to news reports, he tipped into the water, but managed to right the tote and stay afloat. To stay awake and upbeat, he sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
Aadsen and Brady-Power motored north with binoculars in hand, hoping to see the missing man despite poor visibility.
At one point, Brady-Power called out, “There! What’s that?” Sixty feet ahead to the left a blue tote listed in the water.
A moment later they both yelled, “There’s another one!” Several hundred yards ahead a second tote bobbed upright. Inside, a man started flapping his arms.
Brady-Power immediately contacted the Coast Guard. A helicopter appeared, and 43 seconds later, by Aadsen’s count, Harris was safe, inside the copter.
Aadsen and Brady-Power have been running the Nerka, a 43-foot salmon-fishing boat built for Brady-Power’s parents, for the past seven seasons, and bought a house in Bellingham three years ago.