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Fishing community mourns missing crew of Seattle-based crab boat Destination

A plaque at the Seattle Fishermen's Memorial.
Flickr Photo/Kim (CC BY SA 2.0)/
A plaque at the Seattle Fishermen's Memorial.

The Coast Guard will investigate why the Seattle-based fishing vessel Destination disappeared off the coast of Alaska Saturday.

Six crewmembers were on board, but so far a search over the weekend only turned up debris from the ship.

On Tuesday visitors milled around the bouquets, notes and other mementos placed at the foot of a tall statue known as Fishermen’s Memorial, featuring the names of people lost at sea.

Crewman Mark Shay knows some of those names.

“Something like this happens and it brings it all back for a lot of people who’ve lost sons and husbands. Certainly brings memories of my friends back,” he said.

Shay used to work in the Bering Sea, which constantly sprays boats with water. “This time of year it’s so bitterly cold, the big danger is 'icing up,'” he said.

This happens as water and spray freeze to the boat decks. Ice can be especially dangerous because if it builds up it can make ships top heavy.

On the other side of the docks, a worker welds on board the American Beauty. Ben Laughlin is the captain. He said off the coast of Alaska, where the crab boat disappeared, the Bering Sea is unpredictable.

“You’ll see a 10-foot wave will all of a sudden turn into a 20-foot mountain of water right before your eyes,” he said.

Yet, Laughlin said even experienced crews can get complacent about safety.

“[They] just assume that things have been going well for so long, it’s not going to happen this time. So you can bet that we’re going to be doing double inspections and double safety meetings before we leave this summer,” he said.

A Coast Guard spokesman said investigations like that of the Destination can take up to a year.