Big Valley Crab Boat - The deadliest catch incident

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After watching the season finally of The Deadliest Catch I was wondering what the story behind the trgic loss of the crab boat “Big Valley”. Here’s the story from the boat’s lone survivor:

The Coast Guard ended its search Monday evening for three missing crab fishermen washed
from the hull of the F/V Big Valley after she rolled Saturday morning
70 miles west of St. Paul. They are skipper Gary Edwards, 46, of
Kodiak; Josias Hernandez Luna, 48, of Anchorage; and Aaron Marrs, 27,
of Nashville, Tenn.

The body of Carlos Rivera, 35, of Uruguay and that of a second
crewman from Belgium were recovered at the scene. The crewman from
Belgium has not been officially identified because authorities have not
located his family.

Cache Seel, 30, the only survivor, asked friend Travis Stark to
relay the following account of his experience during the hours from
when the canting of the boat woke him until he realized he was alone in
the water, swimming toward a light he hoped came from the life raft.

“First, he wanted me to clear up a few things reported wrong in the national media,” Stark said.

“There was no icing. The temperature was 38 degrees. Cache was on wheel watch at 2:30 a.m. and there was no icing.

“The next thing he remembers is he wakes up in his bunk, and he
was almost vertical. The boat was on its side — it was maybe 60 to 70
degrees over,” Stark said.

Seel’s bunk ran from side to side, not lengthwise, of the boat.

“Cache keeps his survival suit in his stateroom, so he put it on,” Stark said.

“Aaron (Marrs) was hollering. He was unable to get out of his
stateroom because the door was up in the air, so Cache helped him get

“About the same time, Cache was aware that Danny (from Belgium) deployed one of the life rafts.”

Seel believes the other life raft deployed automatically. One
raft was caught in the rigging for a while, but it broke free. Seel
doesn’t know which of the two rafts he found while swimming, Stark

“The deck went 90 degrees within two minutes of starting to sink,” Stark continued.

“There were two crewmen, Aaron and Danny — Cache said they fell
in without suits. They went out and fell with their suits in their
hands. The boat was vertical at that point.

“Gradually it rolled and settled about two-thirds upside down.

“The rolling chock was up; two people were in the water and the
other four were still on the boat which was rolling slowly,” Stark

Rolling chocks are like fins that run along either side of a keel from the stern forward. They are normally under water.

“Cache said the boat was turning slowly. They were able to walk
along the outside of the hull as the boat rolled. Seel ended up near
the stern and the other three were toward the front,” Stark said.

“Enough of the boat was still outside of water that the waves
were not splashing him too hard. As the boat settled down further into
the water the waves got more severe.

“It was pitch black by now. All the engines had quit; the
generators had shut down. Cache couldn’t see the others. He said he
could hear them, but they couldn’t communicate,” Stark said.

“Cache heard Gary yell the EPIRB had floated free. He could see it blinking. Everyone was hopeful at that point,” Stark said.

The EPIRB is an emergency position indicating radio beacon that
automatically sends a signal to the Coast Guard when it floats free. It
can also be manually activated.

For the next hour and a half, Seel held on to a strut, which
supports the rudder, as waves washed over the upturned hull of the
sinking boat.

“Every time a wave crested over the hull, Cache was upside down
with his feet floating. The buoyancy of his survival suit kept his feet
above his head,” Stark said. “Finally, as the boat got deeper and
deeper into the water, he let go.

“For what he estimates was about 20 minutes, Cache was free and
swimming. He couldn’t see or hear the others. Then he saw a white light
and realized it came from the life raft. It took him another 30 minutes
to get to the raft,” Stark said.

“Once in the raft, he vomited seawater and waited.

“The Coast Guard arrived a couple of hours later. A rescue
swimmer helped him into the basket and they hoisted him up. Cache was
the first to be picked up. Next, the chopper picked up Danny,” Stark

The Coast Guard vessel Stinson took Rivera from the water. He was wearing a survival suit.

Cache was flown to Kodiak Sunday. He is talking with family and
friends of the other fishermen, the Coast Guard and insurance

Cache told The Associated Press: “It’s a tragedy about these
guys. Most of us have been together for years. They’re all very dear to
me. Saying I’m sorry just doesn’t cut it.”

“Weather alone was not a factor in the boat going down,” Stark said.

“They were traveling in the trough, and Cache thought the waves were 12 to 15 feet.

“The boat was carrying 50 pots — that’s an average load; it’s what the boat is rated for,” Stark said.

Speculation as to why the Big Valley sank points to free surface, Stark said.

“Free surface” describes slack water that is free to move within
a compartment that should be either completely full of water or
completely empty.

“If a pump failed so water in the crab hold was slack; if a
cutlass bearing broke and water flooded the engine room; or water got
in the lazerette — physically it’s the same effect,” Stark said. “Water
sloshes around inside the boat.”

All the weight moves to one side as the boat rocks. This is
compounded by the actions of the waves hitting the side of the boat as
it travels in the trough. At some point the side to side motion gets so
extreme the boat can’t recover from a roll, Stark explained.


My family, on my mother’s side, are all sea farers. Have lost an uncle, a lobster fisherman, and my brother, a U.S. Coast Guardsman both in Friendship, Maine. I know all too well these losses to the sea.

As it has always been and always will be the sea is a most beautiful and resourceful part of our planet, yet it does not have forgiveness for any error on our part. Those we love and respect deeply have been lost to the sea yet many more shall likewise be taken. Such is the power of that massive hydraulic action we are all but powerless to control where it controls us. We can only be prepared as best we can when being out of our element. The sea is a most beautiful part of our planet, yet it is also a most deadly part. We will go forward again, and again. We pray those who go do not suffer such catostrophe as what the sea will provide.



Christopher Lloyd wrote:

Nature is nasty. Nature will freeze you to death without thinking. Nature has no conscience. It is a brute, uncaring force. Only Man has conscience. Caring is a concept in the human realm, not in nature. Nature is beautiful but only we see its true beauty.

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