Local boater/fisherman Nelson Goodsell and his buddy Dobie were fishing chinook in the Tulalip bubble, just north of Everett, last weekend, when they picked up a “mayday” distress call over the VHF.
“We are taking on water fast. . . two adults. . . four children. . . GPS coo
rdinates. . . “.
Goodsell said he could tell the call was close, but didn’t really know how close, or in which direction.
“Dobie, let’s GO,” he shouted from the helm. His buddy got the gear out of the water, he flashed the engines of his 38 Riviera, Fishtale 2, and put the hammer down.
He said his boat just seemed to pick the right direction, pushing unerringly toward Camano Head, as he notified the Coast Guard that Fishtale 2 was en route and asked them to repeat the coordinates.
“Dobie threw me a pen so I could write them down,” Goodsell said, “then he got life jackets on both of us and made spares ready, along with a throw ring. At about that point we spotted the vessel a half-mile off our bow.”
He notified the Coast Guard that he had the distressed vessel in sight, then slowed so his wake wouldn’t give more problems to the people aboard the badly listing 24-footer.
“We arrived with another small vessel which had been bottomfishing nearby, neither of us in radio contact any longer as the sinking boat’s electrical system fried. I told the Coast Guard the new position and that we were on-site,” Goodsell said.
Goodsell’s buddy got a line to the bow of the vessel to pull it near, made sure everyone had life jackets on and helped offload the four children into the other rescue boat.
“The captain kept frantically pumping on his extra manual pump, but we all knew we didn’t have much time,” Goodsell said. “The Coast Guard then established cell phone contact with me. I told them all four children were safe, but that I believed the vessel was going down and I asked for instructions. They calmly advised me to get the rest of the passengers off the boat and to cut the line between our boats. This was a bit hard to tell the captain and his wife, but they moved out the front hatch and we got them safely aboard Fishtale 2. Dobie removed the lines, and we backed away.
Goodsell said everyone was awestruck at how quickly the vessel turned over.
“There were only minutes before the death roll,” he said, “and had we not gotten the passengers out, it would have gone over even more quickly. The Coast Guard worked us through with complete professionalism and kept things as calm as they could both over the phone and the radio. Everyone was in control, but my heart was pumping like I had a 42-pound springer on the line.”
Goodsell said it didn’t take long to get a call from Vessel Assist, blasting out of Everett to the scene and asking for coordinates. That assist team would eventually tow the overturned vessel to Everett.
“As I look back on the whole thing,” Goodsell said, “I don’t know what made me head nearly two miles in the correct direction to assist. All I can say is that we’re glad it didn’t end tragically, and ‘thank God for small miracles.’”
Nelson Goodsell is a fishing activist with the SnoKing Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers, and one of the club coordinators of the Edmonds Coho Derby.