Heroes of the week

Posted: Monday, September 30, 2002

On July 12, my wife and I aboard the MV Slip 'N' Away experienced motor failure in Kachemak Bay outside of Seldovia Bay in heavy seas, high winds and strong tide shift.

Stranded and dragging anchor, we were obliged to make a mayday call for emergency assistance. We were rescued by the MV Glass Heart from Seldovia with Skipper Charles H. Gillick and Mike Webber assisting.

I cannot overstate the courage, skill, proficiency, professionalism and heroism of Gillick and Webber, and Mary Anne Agli, the Seldovia harbor master.

The following are the details of this emergency rescue.

Just out of Seldovia Bay we hit the breakers and wind. The weather was more than we bargained for. The wind, waves and tide were really churning up. When we hit the rough water, I decided to turn around and get back into the bay. Just at that time, the starboard engine began to overheat and started filling the rear of the boat with steam. The temperature shot up to 260 degrees and pegged the temperature gauge. The windows fogged up, and I could smell antifreeze.

We feared for our lives. The tide held us hard into the troughs, and the wind and waves were hitting us broadside. We were rocking violently.

I went below into the engine compartment to see what could be done, if anything.

While I was below, a big passenger shuttle boat steamed passed us, and the wake along with the high sharp waves nearly turned us over.

The engine hatch slammed down on me as the boat rocked violently from side to side.

My wife started yelling for help. It was too rough for her to reach her life jacket only a few feet away.

I was stuck for a few minutes below and couldn't get out because of the violent motion.

I figured she was going down.

It was dark, and everything I touched was hot in the engine compartment and hot antifreeze was sloshing everywhere.

When I managed to get out of the engine compartment and topside again, I could see we were dragging anchor at a pretty good clip. Our only chance was to give a mayday call on the radio.

Seldovia Harbormaster Mary Anne Agli answered our call for help and quickly dispatched a rescue boat. She stayed on the line and monitored our situation.

I felt better knowing help was on the way and someone competent was helping, even though we were still being batted around by the waves.

Within a short time I got a call from the Glass Heart -- she was under way to our rescue. The skipper asked if we had our life preservers on and if we were OK, taking on water, etc. It was wonderful to hear a confident calm voice and an even more wonderful sight when we could finally see the Glass Heart headed our way.

Gillick tried several times to maneuver close enough for Webber to board us and help me pull the anchor, but the water was too rough.

I was completely exhausted and couldn't pull another foot of the anchor line by myself. Webber suggested I tie a buoy to the anchor and cut the line loose, which I did.

After some skillful seamanship by Gillick and Webber, we got a line on the Slip 'N' Away and soon we were under tow.

It was the most impressive and professional seamanship I have ever seen. It was amazing to watch them.

The two boats pitched and bucked in the wind. It was almost impossible to hang on, yet they managed to stay just the right distance so lines could be thrown and secured. What a great job!

After we got to safer water inside of Seldovia Bay, we secured the Glass Heart alongside the Slip 'N' Away for close maneuvering into the harbor. Considering the rough conditions, this was a feat in itself.

When everything was secure, I went over to meet Gillick and Webber and thank them. They absolutely refused any compensation of any kind.

We are so thankful to them for their help and generosity in a time of crisis. It makes me thankful there are still some real wonderful people left in the world today.

We owe them our lives.

The next day Gillick came down and helped me work on the boat to get one engine running. He loaned me tools, heater hose and clamps. He took me to the hardware store for parts. Again he refused any payment of any kind. Gillick is the kind of neighbor everybody prays for.

Gillick, Webber and Agli demonstrated the highest level of courage, skill, competence, quick thinking, swift action and professional seamanship.

Gillick put his life and his boat at risk with no thought for reward or remuneration to save others from a life-threatening, dangerous situation. Webber put the safety, life and well-being of others ahead of his own while fighting the torrential elements high winds and heavy seas to secure our vessel and tow us to safety.

Agli assessed and evaluated the level of danger, competently reminded us to put our live preservers on and gave us a feeling of confidence, which greatly relieved our anxiety and fear.

These three are true heroes. Their work and competence saved our lives.

Truly as the Lord Jesus Christ said, "Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends."

Harold A. Jackson III, Bobbie J. Jackson

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