Eyak in Port Armstrong Feb., 2016. Hatchery net pens are being assembled. (Photo by Anna Zimmerman)

Eyak in Port Armstrong Feb., 2016. Hatchery net pens are being assembled. (Photo by Anna Zimmerman)

What a difference a year makes!

The Eyak, an integral part of the Sitka waterfront, tore a chunk out of her middle on a rock near Goddard Hot Springs and sank on Jan. 19, 2015.  On Jan. 24, 2016, the Eyak was back in the water, ready to faithfully carry mail and haul cargo to Port Alexander and other points on southern Baranof Island.

Skipper Dave Castle, three passengers and Castle’s dog Olive all escaped the sinking without injury, but the material loss was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Eyak spent about 10 days floating upside down and propped on her mast before experienced barge and crane operators hauled her up and refloated the vessel. Eyak was towed to Sitka and prepared for the longer tow to the shipyard in Wrangell.

A crane and backhoe were both used to lift Eyak. (Photo courtesy of Dave Castle)

A crane and backhoe were both used to lift Eyak. (Photo courtesy of Dave Castle)

And there, Castle said, Eyak received repairs to her hull, a new mast, new pilothouse and new winches and engines, among other re-rigging.

“It was a fairly extensive overhaul,” Castle said. “But there were no surprises – the damage was fairly defined all along.”

The work was made a little more heartbreaking because Castle had performed similar upgrades on the vessel less than five years earlier, and the equipment that had to be replaced after the wreck should have had at least another decade of useful life.

Castle said the support he received from the residents of Baranof Island gave him the strength he needed to complete the extensive repairs. Right after the accident, Sitkans raised $27,000 on GoFundMe, an online funding site, and that money was used to buy the lumber for the initial repairs, allowing the work to proceed until other funds came from the boat’s insurance and from the banks.

Before sinking in 2015, the F/V Eyak had been working steadily for 71 years. (Photo courtesy of Dave Castle)

Before sinking in 2015, the F/V Eyak had been working steadily for 71 years. (Photo courtesy of Dave Castle)

“So many people showed support through that initial push – just having that support made me want to work all the harder,” Castle said. “It gave me the feeling that my destiny was chosen – fix the boat and get back to it.”

“The boat is operating just fine,” Castle continued. “It’s just the luxury things we don’t have. We also laid the groundwork for future expansions. By this time next year we’ll start to benefit from a lot of those projects. Right now, the table saw is still in the galley.”

Read more about The Eyak here and here.