2 men plucked from skiff in Cook Inlet

Two men were rescued Tuesday evening after being stranded in a power-less skiff surrounded by rough Cook Inlet waters for almost three hours.

Charles Smith and Kenneth Maal, both of Sterling, were airlifted out of their 26-foot aluminum skiff approximately 200 yards from shore near Milepost 8 of Kalifornsky Beach Road, Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Responders were called to the scene about 3 p.m.

After several different attempts to reach the men, a helicopter located the boat, which had been tied off to the buoy of some setnet fishing gear. The two men were pulled up at about 5:45 p.m. and were taken to Central Peninsula Hospital as a result of the incident.

Peters reported the skiff’s engine was not working and the vessel started to take on water from the choppy seas.

The event was an unusual one, Central Emergency Services Health and Safety officer Brad Nelson said.

“When the call came in over the radio, everyone was looking at each other going, ‘What?’” he said.

The conditions prevented a first attempt to rescue the men, and after the Troopers’ and CES boats had launched from Kenai City Dock, the Alaska Air National Guard had dispatched a helicopter, which arrived on scene before the boats were able to.

At the time, the swells were between five and 10 feet, he said.

“We had some big breaks going on, we had the wind going on, of course it was windy and, plus, we had the tide coming in so it made for some nasty water out there,” he said. “That’s why they didn’t want to unhook from the setnet. If they would have tried coming in under no power, they could have gotten turned sideways and overturned very easily.”

**Editor's note: A previous version of this story contained an error, which has been corrected.

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