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Coast Guard Petty Officer Charlie Hengin is a spokesman for District 17. She says Air Station Sitka launched a helicopter around 11:40 PM. A boat crew from Sitka Mountain Rescue was underway at about the same time.

 “The Sitka Mountain Rescue boat crew actually made it to the Zimovia at around midnight and they were able to embark the man. Once he was aboard the vessel he was treated for cold water exposure and taken to Sitka Community Hospital.”

The Zimovia is owned by 73-year old Wrangell resident Wayne “Doc” Davenport, a retired physician and public radio personality. According to family members, Davenport was in good condition early Tuesday.

Don Kluting, the captain of Sitka Mountain Rescue, says the Zimovia was hard aground on Kulichkof, known locally as six mile rock , and in serious trouble.

 “You know we had rocks on each side and the surf rolling over it. I figured the only possible point we could pick him off the boat would be the bow. We maneuvered in and ended up getting a rope over to him, and felt pretty comfortable about that scenario because if he tied the rope to himself we would have a point of attachment, so that if he went overboard we would be able to pull him back in.”

Ultimately that plan failed. Kluting says the line became fouled on the bow of the Zimovia, and his crew was later forced to cut it. The situation was made more difficult because Davenport, the Zimovia’s skipper, was unable to comply with the Coast Guard’s request to don his survival suit due to the heavy motion of the boat as it was pounded by the surf. He had also entangled his leg in the Zimovia's anchor gear.

With the Coast Guard unable to lower a rescue swimmer to the wreck, Kluting says he took advantage of the rising tide to slip his skiff up to the Zimovia.

 “The two crew members I had on board with me, Greg Raschick and Tyler Orbison, were able to stand in the bow of our boat and help free his leg, and literally grab him around the chest and pull him aboard. Once that happened we backed away immediately. That whole process was kind of challenging.”

Kluting says the water was about four feet deep under his fiberglass skiff as the crew made the rescue. The instability of the Zimovia and all of its rigging made for a few anxious moments.

Just last month, Sitka Mountain Rescue paired cellphone technology and technical rope work to locate and recover the body of hunter who died in a fall on Sitka’s Harbor Mountain. Kluting says his team was deployed Monday night to support the Coast Guard, and the situation evolved from there. He says plucking a man off a sinking boat is not something you can really rehearse.

 “You know obviously we have our marine safety training and our boater operation safety that we’ve taken over the years. But a scenario like this is not something you can really prepare for. It’s kind of tough.”

Kluting attributes good communication between the Zimovia and the Coast Guard for the success of the rescue, along with some exceptional teamwork.

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Ketchikan has plans to examine the wreck of the Zimovia, which sank moments after its skipper was rescued. The vessel has a capacity of 1,400 gallons of diesel fuel.
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