Coast Guard

Courtesy of US COAST GUARD

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Rafael Aguero carries Grace, an 8-month-old puppy, following her rescue from a Sitkalidak Island beach Tuesday.

A scheduled survey of the capsized F/V Laura near Sitkalidak Island Tuesday turned into a rescue mission as a Coast Guard UH-60 helicopter aircrew discovered a stranded four-legged crew member on a nearby beach.

The 93-foot trawler capsized Monday after striking rocks near Sitkalidak Island, causing its four human crew members to abandon ship via a life raft. However, a fifth crew member, Grace, an 80-pound black pit bull/lab mix, had been the first to go overboard, according to the Coast Guard.

The aircrew spent about an hour looking for the puppy Monday, conducting a five-mile sweep before returning to Kodiak to drop off the rest of Laura’s crew.

The Coast Guard returned to the site on Tuesday when Grace appeared.


“We were out there to check out the Laura and were hovering to take pictures of the boat when the pilot spotted Grace on the beach,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Rafael Aguero, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer. 

Aguero said it was the Coast Guard’s third visit to the wreck in two days, including the initial rescue mission.

“Grace was on a small beach about 100 yards away from the wreck surrounded by 20- to 40-foot cliffs,” Aguero said. “I was able to find a way to scramble down the cliffs and then backtracked to her.”

Aguero said he spent some time trying to calm Grace down before picking her up 

“She was in a state of shock, but I knew she was going to be OK because she let out a bit of a wag,” Aguero said. He said Grace was cold and a bit hypothermic at the time.

Aguero estimated the surf at the time had to be 10 to 12 feet due to recent storms.

“At some point over the past 36 hours before we found her, she had somehow made her way out of the boat and through the rocks, through the surf and on to the beach,” Augero said. 

Aguero said Grace was timid and unsure of herself during the return trip to Air Station Kodiak — up until her reunion with her owner.

“As soon as the owner walked in, she started to wag her tail and you could tell she was happy to be home,” Aguero said. “She was very happy to see her owner.”

Aguero said Grace’s rescue was one of the more unique ones he’s participated in.

“The fact that we found this dog after she had been missing for 36 hours is incredible,” Aguero said. “A lot of us thought it was a hopeless situation for her. It was heart-wrenching.”

Spotting her on the beach changed that mood, he said.

“Coming back after looking for her the day before was a miracle and in a place where we could actually get to her,” Aguero said. 

The F/V Laura did not fare so well, according to Aguero.

By the time the Coast Guard got there the second day the Laura was almost completely under water, Augero said.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reported a five-mile-long thin oil sheen a mile from Sitkalidak Island as a result of the sinking. DEC’s report said the amount of diesel fuel that escaped was unknown.

The maximum fuel capacity of the vessel is 4,000 gallons of diesel. According to DEC, it is estimated by the vessel owner that there were 3,000 gallons of diesel and 425 gallons of lubricants and oils on board at the time of the grounding.


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