Mariners in distress are without a decades-old means of contacting the Coast Guard in much of coastal Alaska. The federal search and rescue agency says its VHF signal is down, making communication on Channel 16 unreliable. The issue had been going on all summer and there’s no solution in sight.
As Sitka fishermen go, Matt Donohoe is somewhat of a veteran. This summer he was trolling for salmon when he heard a distress call over his VHF radio.
“A boat called mayday, but it was on Channel 16, and I expected the Coast Guard to respond and they didn’t,” he said.
It turns out it wasn’t too serious — the skipper had broken down and was drifting. Donohoe continued to try and reach the Coast Guard over his radio as well with little luck. He was relieved that nobody’s lives were at risk that day.
“But there’s a problem with the infrastructure and it needs to be addressed before somebody dies,” he said.