Astartled Ryan Shuck awake just past 2:30 a.m. Ryan groaned and rolled out of bed. He pulled on a pair of wool socks, sweatpants, a white thermal undershirt with holes in the elbows, and a hoodie. Then he went out to the galley. A moment later two guys on the emergency crew came in from the stern. Ryan noticed their pants were wet up to the knees.
Joey Galbreath was still awake when the alarm sounded. He shuffled into the galley. Ryan Shuck was there with a couple of other men. Then someone ran in and said, “Get up to the wheelhouse. You gotta get the suits on.”
Ryan and Joey joined a scramble up to the wheelhouse, where the survival suits were stowed. Gumby suits, most people call them, because that’s what they make you look like, except they’re orange instead of green. Only the face is left exposed in a properly fitted suit, the whole body sealed tight against the sea.
Joey grabbed a suit. It was too big, but would it matter? The Ranger was taking on water, but 200-foot boats don’t sink. They’re divided into compartments with watertight doors, so any breach can be contained. Joey guessed Captain Pete was just being cautious, overreacting to a minor leak.
Peter Jacobsen, 65, had been fishing the Bering Sea for 23 years. He was skipper of the Alaska Ranger, a fishing trawler out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, heading west toward the mackerel grounds off Atka.
Joey heard a voice in the wheelhouse saying that the Alaska Warrior,
the Ranger’s sister ship, was three hours out, steaming toward them. So that was the plan, he figured: transfer everyone to the Warrior, wait for the emergency crew to pump out the Ranger, get back on and hobble back home to Dutch Harbor.
Captain Pete ordered everyone to their assigned rafts. Joey started wrestling
THE CHATTER ON DECK WAS THAT THE RUDDER HAD FALLEN OFF AND WATER WAS COMING IN AT THE STERN.
into his overlarge suit, the floppy feet sliding on the iced-over deck. The air temperature was eight degrees. He was cold already, and three hours was an eternity to wait for the Warrior.
Ryan Shuck was near the raft on the starboard side, close to the wheelhouse. He had his Gumby on. The chatter on deck was that the rudder had fallen off and water was coming