Shortly before 11 a.m., on Saturday, Lorin Dixson posted in a West Coast fishing Facebook group that he had lost his boat that morning but everyone onboard was safe. The responses poured in. The post was shared almost 50 times. His page lit up with well wishes from friends and family. It’s a huge loss, but Dixson is one of the lucky ones. As he says, “It was my first time getting wet.”
At age 71, he’s been fishing for almost 60 years. “I started fishing when I was 12,” he says. He’s taken a few breaks from the fishing life, including a tour as a Navy airman on a patrol boat in Vietnam.
Dixson bought the the 40-foot fiberglass troller New Faith in the fall and had been working on her since February to get ready for the tuna season. He also has an 80-foot wooden troller, the Faith II.
At 5 a.m. on Saturday, July 8, New Faith was returning to Charleston, Ore., to offload a haul of albacore tuna. About 60 miles off Coos Bay, Ore., she began going down by the stern.
Bilge alarms alerted her crew to an unknown source of flooding. The two-day trip had yielded almost a ton of albacore. Dixson thinks the boat could pack about 4 tons, but he can’t be sure because this was his first time tuna fishing on the New Faith.
“I never filled it,” he says. “That was the first tuna trip.”
Dixson took New Faith out once before for salmon fishing, but had to cut the trip short after one day because of some problems with the electrical system. He had since been working on the boat in the Charleston Boat Basin and felt confident everything on the boat was good to go for the tuna trip.
Soon after the alarms sounded, Dixson made a mayday call on channel 16. The Coast Guard responded with helicopters, the first of which arrived at about 6:30 a.m. In the meantime, local fisherman Brendan Bates responded to the call and passed Dixson a 1.5-inch pump to supplement his own bilge pumps. They were making progress on the flooding when the spare pump failed. The rescue swimmer from the Coast Guard arrived with a 2.5-inch pump. All three of them worked on the Coast Guard pump, but they weren’t able to keep it pumping for more than a few seconds at a time.
“I am sure if that pump had ran, we would have been able to dewater the boat and control the inflow,” Dixson says.
He and his deckhand were airlifted to North Bend, where they were released with no injuries.
The New Faith sank about 52 miles from home with less than 300 gallons of diesel and a load of albacore.
Dixson is not sure what the future holds for him. He stripped most of the gear off the Faith II for the smaller New Faith, which he says “was to be my semi-retirement boat.”