Pine Nuts: The Indomitable Spirit Of Man |

Pine Nuts: The Indomitable Spirit Of Man

McAvoy Layne
Pine Nuts
McAvoy Layne

A rescue at sea is always riveting, but the 2020 New Year’s Eve Rescue gave me chicken skin all over.

In full disclosure I have not ventured out to sea since our honeymoon when my wife did most of the fishing and I did most of the crabbing. Unless standing on shore, anchored in sand, I have no love for the sea.

To me a sea cruise is being under house arrest, but with a chance of drowning.

So this past New Year’s harrowing sea story is off the charts for me. Seven brave and capable boys shoved out from Kodiak into the Gulf of Alaska on a 130 foot dingy with high hopes of landing 600,000 pounds of snow crab. Where they would put all those crabs one can only guess.

Now, the water up that way is cold. You think Lake Tahoe is cold? No, Lake Tahoe is Steamboat Hot Springs compared to the frigid waters of the Alaska Gulf in January.

OK, our boys turn in before midnight, too exhausted to celebrate the New Year. The sea is rising, and I don’t know about them, but I would have made my last will and testament, stuffed it into a bottle, and corked it up before closing my eyes on such a night.

Then, while they soundly sleep, it happens. A monster wave puts their boat on its side and they find themselves sliding across the floor in the dark. Lifeboats atop the wheelhouse are out of reach as their boat is fast sinking. There is only time to pull on survival suits before being torn by howling winds and swept into a tumultuous sea. The closest possible rescuers? They are ringing in the New Year 170 miles away in Kodiak.

I’m not a religious person, though I do know what my words would have been in that perilous moment of being swept into the sea, “Help me, Jesus!” But no, can you guess what one of those brave boys had to say? He turned to his star-crossed comrade and said, “I wonder what everybody else is doing this New Year’s Eve.” And into the brine they go …

That, my friend, is the very core of the indomitable spirit of man.

The lifeboats were mounted so that they might float free and light-up. A couple of the boys are able to swim to one of those lifeboats and climb onboard, don’t ask me how. But guess what, that lifeboat is half-full of water and the lights on that lifeboat go dark.

Well, they do find a couple flares, but who is ever going to get to see the glow of those flares? Ice begins to form like concrete on their survival suits.

Meanwhile, back in Kodiak, a Coast Guard Rescue Crew receives a May Day, but the vessel goes down before beaconing an exact location. Yet just before midnight, with only a little piece of information in hand, a four-person rescue crew sets out to make a two and a half-hour helicopter flight with no fuel to spare.

At two o’clock in the morning on the first day of 2020 the Coast Guard spots a light and lowers a crew member only to discover an empty lifeboat. Then, miracle of miracles, a burst of light appears in the night sky a mile or so away, and not a second too soon. They have just enough fuel to attempt a rescue and get back home. And yes, in that second lifeboat they find two shivering, ever so grateful survivors.

We lost five gallant lads that January morning, may they rest in eternal peace. And let us take a moment to salute our Coast Guard for being on guard on New Year’s Eve, and for braving 60 mile an hour winds and 30-foot seas to pluck two heart-gladdened boys out of Davey Jones’s Locker.

Here’s to our incomparable Coast Guard, and the indomitable spirit of man.

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.