Nearly 3 years after deadly sinking, debris from F/V Scandies Rose finds its way to family in Kodiak

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It’s been nearly three years since the deadly sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose near Sutwik Island, off the Alaskan Peninsula. Now, pieces of the ship have started washing ashore, bringing closure to some family members of the crew members lost.

Seven men were on board the Scandies Rose when she went down during stormy weather in the waters off Sutwik Island – near Chignik – on New Year’s Eve, 2019. 

Two survivors were plucked from the water in the hours after the vessel sank by Coast Guard rescue crews. But five crew members were never found and presumed dead. Those included the ship’s captain, Gary Cobban Jr. and his son David Cobban, both from Kodiak.

Debris from the F/V Scandies Rose, which sunk on Dec. 31, 2019, recently was found by a fisherman from Chignik. (Photo courtesy Gerry Cobban Knagin via Facebook)

Gerry Cobban Knagin is Gary Cobban Jr’s sister. She said in the years since, the family sent a remote operated vehicle down to the seafloor to survey the wreckage.

“I have a whole video of the boat on the bottom with the pots and the buoys popped up out of the pots and made like a kelp forest of buoys,” she said. 

The ship, a 130-foot crabbing boat, was enroute from Kodiak to fishing grounds in the Bering Sea and stacked with 198 crab pots when it sank. 

Now, those buoys and other pieces of the ship have started washing ashore. 

Knagin said her family was contacted earlier this month by a fisherman from Chignik, who found two buoys and a bait tote. He flew them back to the family in Kodiak.

“That was just such a heartfelt moment to know that this fisherman, he recognized them for what they were and then he didn’t have Facebook, so he used somebody else’s Facebook page to get in touch with me,” said Knagin. “And then I met them here in Kodiak and picked them up and that’s just like, thank you. I can’t thank him enough for that.”

Knagin said they’ve received some of her brother’s personal belongings from storage yards in Kodiak and Dutch Harbor over the years, but finding something from the ship was different. 

“When I touched those buoys it was like getting a hug from my brother. It was a pretty emotional moment,” said Knagin. 

A report from the National Transportation Safety Board later concluded that inaccurate stacking instructions – particularly in icing conditions – for the ship’s crab pots and more extreme weather than predicted likely caused the Scandies Rose’s sinking. The NTSB made a series of recommendations to multiple agencies, including the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service and the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association based on its findings. 

Just last week, members of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment were walking the docks in Kodiak to make sure boats heading out for Kodiak’s upcoming tanner crab fishery were loading pots correctly. Knagin said weather forecasting has also gotten better in the area where her brother’s ship went down. Education and outreach to fishermen has also improved; there’s an upcoming Alaska Marine Safety Education Association course in Kodiak on vessel stability and emergency procedures (Jan. 4 to 5).

Knagin said she plans to reunite washed-up items from the sunken vessel with the family members of the other men who went down with the ship. 

Her brother was color blind, so the big buoys from the Scandies Rose are lime green for him to pick them out on the sea. They have the letters “SR” written on them in black with the ship’s Fish and Game number, 35318. There’s also smaller buoys with the Fish and Game number on them that may float to the surface. 

“Some of those are trailer buoys, some of those are red and some of those are white,” she said.

She said anyone who finds something they think is from the ship can find her on Facebook and send her a message, or contact her via email, that’s gdknagin@gmail.com.

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