Following the tragic sinking of the Scandies Rose on New Year’s Eve, the family of a father and son on the boat try to return to their normal lives.
The Cobbans lost two family members, Gary Cobban, Jr. and David Cobban when the Scandies Rose capsized and sank in the Bering Sea.
“It’s a little easier going back to work and trying to continue life as normal,” said Gary Jr.’s daughter Barbara Cobban, who works as a school bus driver and pull tab vendor at Tony’s Bar.
The Cobbans were two out of five missing fishermen on the Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab boat. Only two fishermen survived. The latter were found by the Coast Guard four hours after the boat sank.
The Cobbans are “born and bred fishermen, it’s what we do,” said Gerry Cobban Knagin, one of Gary Jr’s sisters. She and her husband Gary Knagin own the F/V Rubicon, a 42-foot seiner. Knagin will fish for tanner crab in the upcoming days.
“I’m about as nervous any other time he would be going out. They are going to do anything they can do to stay safe,” Cobban Knagin said of her husband and crew.
Deanna Cobban, Gary Jr’s other sister, explained that fishing for tanner crab in Kodiak is different than fishing for crab out in the Bering Sea, where Gary Jr. ran into bad weather and the ship capsized and sank, she said.
“Gary Knagin will be fishing on the east side of Kodiak. The Kodiak fishery is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Deanna said, adding that Fish and Game “will delay (the boats) if there is bad weather.”
In addition to the loss of Gary Jr. and David, family members are also grieving the deaths of their parents, Dolores “Dodi” Cobban and Gary Cobban, Sr., who died in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
“Any time that there is a traumatic loss like that, the grief is intense and we have to channel it so we can take care of our stuff,” Cobban Knagin said of the legal and financial work that has to be completed.
Through grief, the family is trying to come to terms with their loss and the sinking of the Scandies Rose.
For Barabara, what most shocked her about the Scandies Rose incident was that no “good Samaritan boat” came to help when they heard the mayday call.
“I knew and heard that the weather was rough but there should have been someone close by,” Barbara said.
Her father was known to often help people in need when on the water, she said.
“He was so good, and loving and caring,” Barbara said of Gary Jr. “Even if he was setting pots in the middle of the Bering Sea and somebody called a may day … he would have stopped and go and help that boat and tow them into Dutch (Harbor).”
She recalled her father’s humor and his kindness. He used to name his crab pots, the large metal cages fishermen use to catch crab, after people who made a difference in his life, Barbara said.
Barbara also had memories of her brother, being kind and gentle. What he loved most about fishing was spending time with their father.
“He liked being able to be with dad. It was a big thing being with dad and spending time with dad and being able to build stories of father and son time,” Barbara said. “My dad was such a magnetic, charismatic person you wanted to spend as much time as you could with him.”
David would often spend time at the local game store, the Kodiak Grand Slam, where he met people with like minded interests.
“David was a huge part of our Grand Slam gaming community. We hold game nights every Friday night, the majority of people who come in play Warhammer, a miniature war game,” said Zach Koehler, who owns the store with his wife.
“David was one of the more passionate ones about Warhammer. He usually came in on a daily basis when he was in town. He just loved the game, loved the hobby, loved being around people who liked being the same things,” Koehler said.
As a fishing family in a fishing town, the Cobbans have lost many close fishermen friends throughout the years, Barbara said.
“Being a fisherman and living that lifestyle, there are a lot of people that we have lost along the way. It doesn’t get any easier,” Barbara said. “There has been so many others. You never get over it, but it is part of the job.”
Deanna noted that fishermen who fish for crab know at the back of their mind that they may not come back after fishing.
“Everybody that fishes for crab out here knows that bad things can happen,” Deanna said.
The Cobbans said they remain grateful that Dean Gribble, Jr. and John Lawler were saved, and that the community has rallied to help cover financial costs that may burden the survivors and families of those lost on the Scandies Rose.
“We know Gary and David didn’t make it out but we got two survivors. We sent seven out but that’s still a win because we got two guys that are still alive,” Deanna said.