2020 came crashing into the lives of this island community with furious mayhem and heavy sorrow wrought by the sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose off Sutwik Island on the Alaska Peninsula.
The boat was skippered by long-time Kodiak resident, Gary Cobban, Jr., whose son, David, was on board as well. Two crewmembers who were picked up in a life raft were treated at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center in Kodiak.
Gerry Cobban Knagin, sister of skipper Gary, logged onto Facebook to commend the hospital staff for its kindness, compassion and “excellence of care.” She also praised the Coast Guard for its persistent search of the crew.
Gerry and Gary lost their father, Gary Cobban, Sr. this past year and their mother, Dodi Cobban in 2018.
The community of Kodiak has been hit hard by this tragedy, said the mother of fishermen — including one who died in the Bering Sea.
We are an island community. When a boat goes down and lives are lost, we feel the impact in the depths of our heart and soul.
I didn’t know Captain Gary well, but recall pleasant encounters with him. I interviewed his mother (Gary Sr. modestly declined an interview) regarding her work with Fishermen’s Wives. Dodi was instrumental in increasing safety measures on boats and erecting the Harbormaster obelisk, which bears the names of departed fishermen. Those names on the obelisk are solemnly read at the Fishermen’s Memorial Service during the Crab Festival.
In an article about the obelisk, I wrote that monuments, such as this, define a community. “They tell us what really drives its people, what forces have shaped it into the type of place that makes it unique. Monuments tell us of a community’s joys, sorrows and pride.
“The obelisk … has been a painful reminder that some of our fishermen don’t come back.”
The Crab Festival memorial service has an almost military air about it: presentation of flags, men and women dressed in uniform, the singing of Eternal Father Strong to Save, the ringing of a bell as names of the deceased are called out. This military-like touch is appropriate. I look at Alaska fishermen and women as warriors who face formidable opponents, such as unruly weather, towering waves, icing conditions. Some of these warriors, never return to their homes, leaving in their wake, a grieving community. There is a commraderie amongst the fishermen that touches all of us.
“No man is an island, entire of itself,” wrote the British poet, John Donne, in a meditation about mankind’s inter-connectedness. How well the people of Kodiak understand the import of Donne’s words.
As we grieve the passing of loved ones, we can be sure that, through the worst of times and best of times, the people of Kodiak will come alongside us to share the heavy burden.