Juneau fisherman, 2 dogs rescued after abandoning ship

A soaking wet man, draped in a blanket, poses for a photo with four Coast Guard members and two dogs
Shown include the Coast Guard Air Station Sitka aircrew who rescued Robert Johnson and his two dogs after Johnson’s vessel capsized in Freshwater Bay, Alaska, Oct. 19, 2022. Johnson signaled the aircrew with a flare, who quickly located him nearby on shore. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)

A Juneau fisherman and his two dogs are safe after a Tuesday morning Coast Guard rescue in Freshwater Bay, about 18 miles southeast of Hoonah.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard headquarters in Juneau got a mayday call from the 33-foot Bailey Bay shortly before 5 a.m. The fishing boat’s skipper, Robert Johnson, said he was alone on the boat with his two dogs, and he was taking on water.

That was the last call Johnson made from the Bailey Bay.

An open Pelican case filled with emergency supplies
The emergency kit Roger Johnson took from the sinking Bailey Bay. (USCG image)

Coast Guard personnel from Station Juneau, Air Station Sitka, and the cutter Douglas Denman responded. Several vessels in the area also heard the call and helped the Coast Guard narrow down the search area.

Just before 8 a.m., a helicopter from Air Station Sitka found Johnson — wearing a survival suit and signaling with a handheld flare — on a beach with his dogs in Freshwater Bay.

In a news release, Lt. Trevor Layman, with the Sector Juneau Command Center, said that the help of other mariners along with Johnson’s own preparedness contributed to the rescue.

“All these factors allowed us to do our job in an efficient manner to bring the man and his dogs safely home,” he said.

A shot taken over a pilot's shoulder shows a beach with a bright red marker on it.
A rescue helicopter from Air Station Sitka was able to easily locate Johnson on the beach in Freshwater Bay, due to his use of signaling devices (as seen through the cockpit window). (USCG image)

The crew of the Douglas Denman found the Bailey Bay submerged and reported that it was producing a small sheen. It reportedly has less than 75 gallons of diesel fuel on board.

The vessel owner plans to conduct salvage operations. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

KCAW - Sitka

KCAW is our partner station in Sitka. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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