Making the save in Whittier, Alaska; Coast Guard Auxiliary to the rescue

United States Coast Guard Auxiliary 17th District logo

United States Coast Guard Auxiliary 17th District logo

It was a calm day on the waters of Passage Canal near Whittier, Alaska, when Bill Reiter and his crew spotted a disabled recreational vessel in the main traffic lane. Reiter and his fellow Coast Guard Auxiliary members, Russ and Cathy Lyday, concerned for the safety of the vessel’s crew, went in for a closer look.

Reiter and the Lydays are members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Whittier Flotilla, an 80-member flotilla that was first established in 1958. A reduction in members during the early 1970’s caused the flotilla to shut down for awhile but it was back up and running by 1978, and it’s been going strong ever since.

“I originally joined the auxiliary because of the SAFEboat program,” Reiter said, referring to a Coast Guard program that saw 25-foot and 27-foot Coast Guard response boats issued to the flotilla from 2001-2012. “The SAFEboats might be gone now, but that hasn’t diminished my motivation to help the boating public.”

Auxiliary members in Whittier conduct vessel safety courses and examinations throughout the year to educate the community, but they also patrol the waterways for any signs of trouble. That’s what led them to discover the disabled 24-foot pleasure craft, Knotty Time, in Passage Canal.

“We always keep our eyes open for mariners in distress,” said Reiter. “The Knotty Time wasn’t putting any other vessels in danger, but it was dead in the water so we went over to see if there was anything we could to help.”

The crew of the Knotty Time told Reiter they were having engine trouble. The Auxiliary members notified Sector Anchorage about the situation and offered to shadow the vessel back into port. After the vessel’s engine refused to start however, Reiter and his crew safely towed the Knotty Time and its crew to Whittier.

“This case was a perfect example of why the volunteers of the Coast Guard Auxiliary are instrumental in ensuring Alaskans are safe on the water,” said Lt. Jason Gangel, Coast Guard Auxiliary Liaison Officer for Sector Anchorage. “The flotilla in Whittier does a terrific job for us, and we’re proud of all their accomplishments.”

Though they’re the largest flotilla in Alaska, the Whittier crew is always on the lookout for new members who can get involved and increase their outreach and presence on the water. For information about how you can join their ranks, please visit their website at

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