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VIDEO: Prepared for the worst

The Coast Guard praised five boaters who were rescued in May after their 60-foot motoryacht sank in the Gulf of Alaska, saying the crew was well-prepared to deal with the emergency and the rough conditions.

Tom Alexander, 54, and the crew of Nordic Mistress, a 1998 Bayliner, were equipped for the conditions, says Petty Officer Jonathan Lally, Coast Guard public affairs specialist. The boat was outfitted with the necessary communication and rescue gear, including survival suits, a life raft, flares and an EPIRB, Lally says.

Alexander used his VHF radio to give the Coast Guard his coordinates, Lally says, and once its helicopter was at the scene the boaters set off a flare that led to the rescue of the five-person crew, all of whom are from Anchorage. "They knew how to use the flare, and they knew how to get into their survival suits and get into the life raft. All of this helped the rescue go as smoothly as it did," Lally says.

They had triggered the EPIRB, but the beacon was not a factor in the rescue.


Click play for video of the ordeal as Alexander narrates.

The Bayliner was about 85 miles north of Kodiak in 20-knot winds and 10-foot seas on May 22 when the boat became hard to steer, says Alexander, a semiretired commercial real estate agent. He sent his first mate, Brian Broderick, to check for problems in the engine room. Broderick reported that it was flooded.

The Nordic Mistress sank in about 45 minutes, says Alexander, who believes a shaft seal or through-hull might have failed. "The boat has dripless shaft bearings, and there's a big coupler," he says. "That [coupler] must have cut loose, and if it does cut loose, water comes in fast."

Alexander immediately radioed the mayday. "By then, Brian had gotten all the crew in their survival suits," says Alexander, who has been boating in Alaska for 30 years. "I was still up at the helm, keeping the boat into the swells because if I hadn't it would have capsized."

Alexander, whose 14-year-old son, Jacob, was on board, says he was taking Nordic Mistress from Kodiak to Whittier for the summer, a 260-mile trip he has made 30 times. "We use it mostly for sportfishing," he says. "It is a highly maintained boat. I've been through a lot worse with the boat. It wasn't the big seas that sunk her; it was a mechanical failure in the engine room that … sent her to the bottom of the Gulf of Alaska."