The Seattle-based, 92-feet-long crab-fishing boat Destination left Dutch Harbor, Alaska,on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, with six men on board. The weather forecast was dicey at best, calling for 40-mph wind gusts, 13-foot seas and 18-degree temperatures. But Jeff Hathaway,60, the captain, was a veteran of the Bering Sea crab fleet, and he was under time and money pressure to deliver his catch. He also was a driven man; he ran his ship his way.
Two days later Destination suddenly sank, taking all six men with her. There was no Mayday, just an EPIRB signal. Later, tracing images from the boat’s transponder, the Coast Guard concluded that it made almost a complete circle, a death spiral, before it went down.
In its report, The National Transportation Safety Board said that freezing spray coated the boat with ice and made it top heavy before it capsized and sank. It blamed Hathaway for venturing out in hazardous conditions, and then for failing to have the crew combat the ice. (The transponder showed the boat was moving at 10 knots before it sank – too fast for the crew to be on deck hacking away at the ice.)
The Coast Guard, however, reached a different conclusion. Using computer modeling, it said that Destination had significant stability problems even before it left Dutch Harbor. It carried too many crab pots, stacked five feet high, relying on an outdated 1993 boat loading guide. The average pot’s weight then was 700 pounds. When the Coast Guard weighed one from the Destination that it recovered from the sea floor, it weighed 840 pounds, and Hathaway had 200 of them on board.
Destination, according to the Coast Guard, also had other design problems. In many ways, it was an accident waiting to happen.
And then there was the sea. The particular area where Destination went down is notorious among the crab fleet for its swirling winds and strong currents. “That can be a real hell hole,” one fisherman said.
Here’s a dramatic story from the Anchorage Daily News about life – and death – on the Destination and the Bering Sea. Read more: