Several canoe groups are paddling down the Inside Passage to Wrangell for the Shakes Island Rededication event this week.
Two canoes traveling from Juneau hit bad weather and rough water on Saturday. One canoe was lost.
Both canoes left Juneau on April 24th. They were each accompanied by a support boat.
The Raven canoe belongs to the One People Canoe Society and has paddlers from several Southeast communities and Washington state.
The second canoe is from the Sealaska native corporation and has a Yakutat-based crew.
The crews hit bad weather and high seas in Seymour Canal on Saturday.
Both decided to put the paddlers on the support boats and tow the canoes.
Alicia Chilton is on the board of the One People Canoe Society. She’s also a paddler on the Raven Canoe.
“When we went to turn, the line slacked in, and all the water from the back of the canoe rolled forward. And that’s when she just went down and the line broke. And we watched her drift away from us,” said Chilton.
Both the Raven canoe and the Sealaska canoe snapped their tow lines and were washed away.
The lost Raven Canoe was spotted on a rocky shore where it had beached itself. It was retrieved safely at about 2pm on Saturday.
The Sealaska canoe was found about two hours later.
The plan was to tow both canoes to Kake, where they could be inspected for damage, repaired if necessary, and sent back on their journey.
The Raven canoe made it. The Sealaska canoe did not.
During the recovery, it broke free of its tow line for a second time.
As of this afternoon, a search and recovery effort is in full swing. A Juneau-based plane for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was sent out. A second plane from Petersburg Fisheries was also dispatched.
There was a possible sighting of the Sealaska canoe this morning.
Wrangell Cooperative Association staff member Renee Claggett is helping coordinate efforts in the water.
She made contact with crewmember Jay Dodge of the Silver Bay Seafoods tender Lady Kate this afternoon.
“Okay the report is from the pilot that it was upside down and actually went up during a high tide. And it’s falling tides now so it’s probably safe. If anybody as the boats are moving in for the Seymour herring fishery, if they could just keep an eye out for it. So if you could just put the word out on the fishing fleet there as they come in. And if it does get into trouble, maybe somebody could grab it and let us know,” said Claggett to Dodge.
The Sealaska canoe’s life vests were also possibly spotted in the area known as the Rock Garden in Seymour Canal.
Meanwhile, the Raven canoe and its crew arrived in Kake late Sunday afternoon.
The Sealaska crew made it to Kake as well.
And, Chilton said, everyone is coming together to make the best of a harrowing experience.
“What’s happening now is that the Juneau and Yakutat crewmembers—we’ve got a total of 18—will be rotating through the Raven canoe. So Juneau and Yakutat are combining into one now,” said Chilton.
The Raven canoe is expected to arrive in Wrangell waters on Wednesday.
The Raven canoe is set to leave Kake for Petersburg Tuesday morning. It had to delay its planned departure this morning due to inclement weather.