Original air date: May 10, 2005
The ships left Dutch Harbor for the deadlier opilio crab season, the last one to be held under the derby-style rules. The weather was treacherous, with heavy gale warnings and high seas predicted. The Lady Alaska had to return to port due to electrical problems, costing them a day of the already short season. The Northwestern headed out to the far northern Opilio fishing grounds, near the Russian border. As the rest of the boats neared the fishing grounds, a Coast Guard alert was issued to the fleet: An EPIRB, belonging to the F/V Big Valley, had been activated, and no one on the Big Valley was answering radio hails or satellite phone calls. Three fishing vessels, including Maverick and the Cornelia Marie, started the search, joined just before dawn by a Coast Guard helicopter, but found nothing at the position indicated by the EPIRB. As dawn broke, debris from the Big Valley was all that could be seen, making it clear that the boat sunk. A single life raft from the Big Valley was found with one survivor, deck boss Cache Seel, in it. Seel, who had managed to get into his survival suit before getting tossed into the sea, confirmed that the Big Valley capsized and went down quickly; three men died shortly after falling into the sea with no survival suits on. The Coast Guard found another man wearing a survival suit and pulled him from the water, but declared him dead shortly thereafter.