A series of tragic accidents befell Washington Dungeness crab captain Matt Finley on Saturday, Feb. 13.

Finley had been living aboard his 50-foot boat the F/V Terry F. with his dog Shelly when the fleet finally got clearance to start the season after a string of delays.

Saturday was set as “dump day,” when the fleet is allowed to drop pots ahead of the official opening on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

The weather was treacherous when Finley and his crew set out from Westport early Saturday morning, the deck loaded with crab gear.

As the Terry F. rocked in the waves, the gear on deck began to shift, broke through the railing, and caused the boat to list and take on water. Downflooding reportedly led to a loss of power.

Finley was able to make a call for help around 7:30 a.m. The Coast Guard reports that they lost contact with the crew, but were able to locate them about four miles offshore around 7:40 and drop a radio onboard. All three crew members were wearing survival suits.

“The crew’s fast action to notify our watchstanders and put on those survival suits saved their lives,” said Lt. Cdm. Jason Joll, pilot and flight commander. “They had those suits on and were ready to go when we arrived on scene.”

They were instructed to enter the water one at a time and were all safely aboard a Coast Guard helicopter by 9:15, including Finley’s pup, Shelly. (The Noyo Dawn also suffered steering loss in the rough weather but was able to be towed safely to Warrenton.)

With everyone accounted for and in stable condition, Finley headed to the beach in hopes of salvaging some of his personal effects from the boat as it was washing ashore.

After Finley left the beach with his dog, his truck struck a pole. Shelly died as a result of the accident, and Finley was hospitalized.

Finley’s friends and family, as well as the larger West Coast fishing community, kicked into gear immediately this weekend in efforts to raise funds to support him through this tragic string of losses.

Donations can be sent to a GoFundMe set up by his sister or via check directly to his bank:

First Security Bank,
P.O. Box 2664
Westport, WA 98595
Attn: Matt Finley

Jody Pope, a Westport fisherman’s wife and president of WEfish, has volunteered the organization to collect checks for Finley, as well. They can be mailed to:

P.O. Box 2467
Westport, WA 98595
Attn: Matt Finley

Washington’s Department of Ecology was able to defuel the boat as of Monday morning.

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 15 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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