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Coast Guard crew Pete Melnick, Andrew Sullivan, John Leach and Jason Yelvington stand with the rescued Nick Middleton and Weston Chavez. (Courtesy photo)

A Coast Guard crew rescued two Sitka-based commercial fishermen from a sinking boat near the Fairweather fishing grounds early this morning (Tue 5-17-16).

Westin Chavez and Nick Middleton were hauled out of the water by a rescue swimmer and helicopter, despite dicey weather conditions, and transported back to town in good condition, Coast Guard Commander Pete Melnick says.

He says the two called for help around 2 AM, when they couldn’t steer the 47-foot F/V Rosalyn because it was taking on water. The Fairweather Fishing grounds are about 115 nautical miles northwest of Sitka.

A Coast Guard H-60 helicopter from Air Station Sitka arrived on-scene approximately 40 minutes later, dropping a rescue swimmer and raft in the water. The swimmer assisted the crew of the Rosalyn into the raft,  and they were hoisted one-by-one into the helicopter from there.

“It was some pretty sporty, pretty tough conditions out in the Fairweather grounds,” he said. “I would say that the seas were somewhere at 15 feet with swells pushing the seas to 20-25 feet and sustained winds at 40 knots out of the east. It was a very challenging hoist.”

The Coast Guard says the rough seas prevented the fishermen from deploying their own life raft. They decided to abandon ship due to the conditions and instability of the vessel. The rescue effort took 20 minutes.

“We were really concerned about all that rigging in the fishing boat it was swinging wildly due to the seas,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we were well away from that boat, particularly if it capsized.”

All in all, Melnick says it was a by-the-book Coast Guard rescue.

“We’re awfully glad that they’re OK,” he said.

Melnick says when the Coast Guard left the scene the Rosalyn was still afloat. He does not know its current status, but it had leaked some diesel into the water. Chavez is listed as the current permit holder on the boat, according to state records. The owner is FV Bad Habit LLC, out of Midway, Utah.