HATS OFF – Sitka High School graduates toss their mortarboards in the air after receiving their degrees Monday night in the Sitka High gym. This year 74 seniors graduated in a ceremony that included addresses by teacher Howard Wayne and class representative Nai’a Nelson, a performance by the symphonic band and a video of graduates. A car parade was held after the ceremony. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Wind Slams 57-Foot Boat onto Harbor Rocks


Sentinel Staff Writer

Strong gusts of wind left a 57-foot commercial fishing boat lodged on the rocks of the Crescent Harbor entrance Saturday. There were no serious injuries among those aboard the F/V Ocean Cape when the accident left the boat stuck on the west side of the harbor entrance for about 36 hours.

“I’m happy the crew and everyone on the boat was safe, and no one got seriously hurt,” skipper and owner Chris Ystad said today.

The wood-hull fishing boat sustained heavy damage from being partially submerged, although the full extent is not yet known, Ystad said. The vessel was back in its moorage slip by Sunday, awaiting repairs.

Ystad said he and his crew had just returned from a successful blackcod run and were leaving the harbor again at 12:30 p.m. to load ice at Sitka Sound Seafoods.

The 10- to 15-minute trip from Crescent to SSS is one that Ystad has made many times in the 1953 wooden vessel he’s owned since 2017. He said that earlier on Saturday he watched Mo Johnson aboard the Cloud Nine return to the harbor from the same errand, and tie up without a problem. 

Ystad then took off with his crew of two and a friend of one crew member aboard the boat.

He said it was windy and gusty, but he had been out the day before on the fishing grounds about 30 miles from Sitka. He said he left his slip on Float 2 and headed toward the entrance without a problem. He was just turning to port to leave the harbor, when the port side was hit with a gust. 

“I’ve been out in worse – I was setting gear in worse, and it handled it fine,” he said.

“In this instance it was windy as I came around the breakwater, I started to make the turn and it laid me over. Another gust hit before the boat could respond and that’s when it went over.”

Ystad described conditions on Saturday as not ideal but generally “no big deal” for this time of year. 

“This was a big surprise,” said Ystad, who has fished commercially since 2006, and is a lifelong fisherman.

The whole incident happened within a minute. Ystad remembers trying to counteract the list with rudder and throttle, but by that point with the 40-knot gusts hitting it broadside, the vessel was “going past the point of no return.”

“It was too late,” Ystad said.

In the wheelhouse he was soon waist-deep in the water. One crew member was able to stay aboard. The crew member in the fish hold was able to get out, cut the raft free and get into it. The friend was able to swim onto the rocks, where she was picked up by another crew member.

 The vessel ended up drifting about 15 or 20 feet and came to rest on the boat ramp and breakwater. As soon as Ystad could, he shut off the engine, which would have been ruined if he hadn’t. The generator shut off automatically, which also helped limit damage.

He gave a big thank you to Hanson Maritime for a quick response. The company helped right the boat and get it back safely to its berth within 36 hours of the accident.

Ystad said he is grateful for the help from Hanson as well as his friends and first responders who arrived to help. He said it was his first major accident at sea, but he has responded to many salvage operations, working with Hanson.

Ystad bought the Ocean Cape from the father of a high school friend in Oregon, and the vessel had been out of the state for decades. Ystad said that in purchasing the boat he changed its name from Maijaliisa to Ocean Cape, the boat’s name in the years it was owned by Mo Johnson Sr. and his family in Sitka.

Ystad said the vessel has been a good fit for him, serving as a seiner, troller and longliner, and he’s looking forward to getting it in shape and getting back on the water.


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May 2004

Dr. Arthur Cleveland, a former dean at Columbus State University in Georgia, was named the new president of Sheldon Jackson College, SJC officials announced today. He will be replacing C. Carlyle Haaland, who has held the position for four years.


May 1974

Coaching and managing the Little League teams this year are John Abbott and John Calhoun, ANB; Dale and DeWayne Vilandre, Alaska Federal; Walt Barker, Elks; Frank Simmons and Frank Vilandre, Lions; Leo Bacon, Pat Ness, Cliff Robards and Bob Edenso, Moose; and Everett Webb, Sportsmen. Head umpire is Carl Karpstein.


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