Coast Guard picks up stranded boaters

Posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Two Juneau boaters lived off unripe salmonberries for four days after they lost their boat on the Whiting River about 40 miles southeast of the capital.

Gregory Eyre, 37, and Yvonne Miller, 30, were stranded Friday when Eyre's new aluminum boat, the 20-foot No News, capsized on a trip to Crescent Lake. They were rescued by helicopter Monday, damp but unharmed.

''We got stuck on a gravel bar, and when we got off, the motor would not start,'' Miller said. ''We tried to control the boat, but the bow hit a big rock. Then Greg said, 'Get out of the boat!' And the boat was gone in a second.''

Eyre and Miller were dressed in blue jeans, flannel shirts or polar fleece, and knee-high boots. After the boat capsized, the pair had only their coats and a cigarette lighter for survival gear.

''No food, no guns, no nothing,'' Miller said.

On Friday night, they camped on a cliff and tried to dry Eyre's clothing over a campfire, Miller said. On Saturday, they hiked down to a freshwater creek fed by a waterfall and decided to stay.

''We had no food, and knew if we hiked too much, we would get in a pretty bad state,'' Miller said.

Eyre's sister reported them overdue Monday morning.

They were spotted Monday between Snettisham Peninsula and Whiting River by a float plane piloted by Ed Sessions, Eyre's boss. He was accompanied by Eyre's brother, Kyle, and friend Doug Courtney.

A Coast Guard boat crew from Juneau attempted a rescue but shallow water prevented the boat from reaching Eyre and Miller.

The Coast Guard then sent in a helicopter from Sitka.

''They were in the trees,'' said pilot Lt. Cmdr. Bob Yerex. ''Fortunately, a float plane operator had spotted them waving their life vests, although he could not get in there at all. Had we not known where they were, below the lake, it could have been a long search.''

Miller said she has boated with Eyre for a year and a half. He built the No News over the winter and had no problems with it on his first outing.

Eyre, a heavy equipment operator, was attempting to retrieve his boat Tuesday.

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