On Thursday, more than 20 rescuers were dispatched to the end of Green Lake Road near Sitka, after two goat hunters were reported overdue.
Mountain Rescue Capt. Don Kluting says weather conditions improved enough during the operation that a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was launched to follow the hunter’s route.
“As we were flying that route, the hunting party came up on Channel 16 and asked the Coast Guard helicopter if they were searching for somebody and the helicopter was able to respond and say ‘Absolutely, we’re looking for you guys,’” Kluting said.
The two hunters, Paul Norwood and Lucas Bastian, reported that they were fine, and that they realized they were overdue. They told rescuers they were moving slowly because of difficult conditions in the woods. Eventually, they found their way back to the lake, and were escorted by mountain rescue crews back to town.
Norwood is himself a member of Mountain Rescue. Kluting said the situation wasn’t a case of two hunters in over their heads, but rather, two hunters who were exercising extreme caution because they knew exactly how difficult the conditions were.
The next day, Friday, Sitka Mountain Rescue went out to help a boat in distress. The 29-foot fishing vessel Midnight Blue reported being disabled in rough seas near Six-Mile Rock. That’s just southwest of Sitka. The vessel encountered nearly 10 foot seas and high winds.
“The operator of the rescue boat stated that there were several times where the trolling poll was dipping into the water, the vessel was rolling so far,” Kluting said. “There was a lot of maneuvering going on, and a lot of effort expended, and certainly a pretty difficult mission.”
Kluting says nine people responded from his team to the distressed vessel. Eventually, they were able to get a tow line on the Midnight Blue and bring it into calmer seas.
The weekend missions coincided with a large-scale training drill for nearly 40 members of the Alaska National Guard, orchestrated by Sitka Mountain Rescue and its counterpart organizations from Juneau and Anchorage.