UPDATE: Hunters found after four-day search

Coast Guard reminds mariners of safety precautions

The Cordova Times file photo by Cinthia Gibbins-Stimson/The Cordova Times.

Three hunters from Wasilla overdue on a trip from Montague Island to Whittier aboard a 20-foot Duckworth jet boat have been found on Chenega Island and hoisted aboard an Air Station Kodiak helicopter forward deployed to Cordova, U.S. Coast Guard officials said Jan. 1.

A relative in Wasilla confirmed that all three men were in good condition.

Coast Guard officials said that they spotted the vessel and a flag on the beach on the south side of Chenega Island on New Year’s Day afternoon, landed their MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter and transported the men to Seward. The men survived by eating kelp and drinking water while staying in a cabin they found on the island, the Coast Guard reported.

“Starting the New Year with a positive outcome to a difficult case is all we can really ask for,” said Michael McNeil, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage command duty officer. “Our crew were able to brave the terrible weather, overcome lack of information as to where these men could have been, and safely get them back to their family and community.”

The woman, who started GoFundMe campaign to raise $5,000 for rescue efforts, had identified the trio on that page as George A. Matveev, Afanasy G. Tipikin and Leonti G. Tipikin.

The GoFundMe effort raised pledges of $13,080 from 93 people within two hours.

The family of the three men notified Coast Guard Sector Anchorage watchstanders on Friday night that the men were overdue, having experienced engine issues and intending to transit the waters using their kicker engine. Last contact was at about 4 p.m. on Jan. 29, the Coast Guard was told.

Weather on scene was initially reported to be two mile-an-hour winds with two foot seas and a water temperature of 44 degrees, but as the search continued through New Year’s Eve, efforts were hampered by fog, along with increased winds and rising waves, the Coast Guard said.

In the wake of the rescue, the Coast Guard is urging mariners to always stay informed of weather conditions and be aware that the weather can change quickly, to wear life jackets, and to file a float plan with friends family and local marinas before heading out onto the water.

The Coast Guard also reminded mariners to be sure they have a working marine band radio on board, to carry marine flares on board, to ensure that bilge pumps are operational and to be sure their vessel is secure for heavy winds and rain.

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Margaret Bauman is a veteran Alaska journalist focused on covering fisheries and environmental issues. Bauman has been writing for The Cordova Times since 2010. You can reach her at mbauman@thecordovatimes.com.