Miracle Rescue – Alaska
Alan RydenRead and be encouraged by Alan’s testimony of rescue, after 10 hours in the water when his fishing boat turned over
“Just don’t get in a hurry to get home, it’s full on wintertime now.” The words of a friend spoken over the phone a week earlier, were sitting in the back of my mind as I traveled. Yet, I was hurrying home, in November, crossing the Western Gulf of Alaska, from the Black Cod grounds south of Sanak Island to my home port of Kodiak.
I had taken a month off to go “Out West” fishing and spend time seeking the Lord for a visitation. The rapidly shifting weather fronts common in fall had stretched my time away to six weeks and I just wanted to get home, certainly not be stuck in some remote anchorage for a week or more waiting for a weather break.
The trip from the Western Gulf fishing grounds is a little more than two days of travel and I was nearly half way home and clearly pushing the weather with my 42foot vessel “Pacific Lady.”
I was trying to work the angle of “traveling close to the shore,” in the lee of a Northwest wind that was now exceeding 50 knots of strength. Officially a “Storm Warning” in the weather forecasts coming over the radio. Running less than a mile from shore, I felt I was getting away with something and could keep going a little longer. Less than five minutes after entering “Cape Providence,” in my log book at 2:30 pm, I realized the wind had now switched and was coming out of the North, now howling down the straight right into my face, and the seas were building to 12 feet right along the shore.
I decided to try slipping back around the Cape for some protection but when I turned back to the west, I was hit by a gust of wind that could only be called a true “Williwaw,” (a term used by the Alaska Natives of the Aleutian Islands to describe notoriously dangerous wind gusts than can be several times the speed of the prevailing wind.)
The “Pacific Lady” laid over beyond 40 degrees. The largest roll I had ever felt on this boat and it just stayed there. I was literally blown over by wind.
I realized within a few seconds that I was not going to be able to recover and was losing my boat to the ocean and wind. As water began pouring over the portside rail and in the galley door I hurriedly grabbed the radio mic. and made the first Mayday call on channel 16, the emergency channel, then waited for an answer. As sea water rose up against my windows I hurriedly threw on a fleece jacket and began jamming myself into my survival suit. “Is there anything else I can do? , Jesus, come on, save this thing for me! The boat’s laying over I’ve gotta get out of here.,”
I pulled the hood over my head then tried issuing another Mayday call with my accurate Latitude and Longitude position adding this time that I was rolling over and going into the water. There was no answer and as water gushed in the wheelhouse door my world turned completely sideways and I was now swimming in chest deep water, trapped against the ceiling by the flotation of the suit and still inside the boat. I was thrown around inside the house. I muscled myself out the door against the rushing water.
My first thought was for the Epirb, an emergency position locator beacon that is mounted on the top of the house. As I scrambled across the chaos of rigging I decided to release the raft first and myself inside.
I was so relieved to be free of the boat and in a raft that I just got away from the boat as quickly as I could and never thought to grab the Epirb, mounted less than a foot away from the raft. Even though all fishermen consider it a top priority to get the Epirb manually released. An Epirb is a distress radio beacon that enables emergency services to locate a boat, person etc. My Epirb was designed to send a signal when the boat was 10 feet under water.
I relaxed somewhat confident, it was “state of the art” equipment including a new hydrostatic release that would turn it on as soon as the boat sank, and I never looked back. I had no idea that the boat would not actually sink until a few hours later and therefore the signal would be sent immediately.
Now in the ocean the battle to survive began immediately in seas that were building rapidly as I drifted away from the protection of the Alaska Peninsula.
The primary raft for my vessel, mounted on the stern, was never an option in my escape so I now found myself in what is called a “Buoyant Apparatus” by the U.S. Coast Guard, essentially a 3ft.x4ft. Life ring with a web floor and handhold lines around the outer edge.
I wrapped my hands tightly around some lines and did all I could to stay in or on top of the flotation. The winds were so strong that the waves were not only stacking high but the crests were being torn off the wave tops transforming the scene into a maelstrom of wild water and wind.
One of the first thoughts that came to mind as I began this fight was the power of the spoken word, and I began declaring aloud, “I shall live and not die”. I knew this was as powerful a statement as I could make as it was actual Bible. So, with all the strength I could muster I kept declaring loudly, deciding to literally create an atmosphere for survival with my words.
In the early minutes, as I remembered that I did not have the Epirb with me and was drifting rapidly away from the area of the sinking. It was completely possible no other vessels had heard my Mayday calls , my only hope in the natural was the Epirb releasing and alerting the CG of my position.
I figured it would take them at least an hour to launch a C-130 search aircraft and fly the approximately 150 miles to my position. I knew the sun would set around 6pm and so had high hopes of seeing a rescue plane and helicopter before dark. But I also realized that if I didn’t see anything flying overhead searching before dark, that the signal from Epirb, (which has to be some ten feet under water before releasing,) was not activated and the possibility of another fishing vessel traveling in this weather anywhere near my position was almost zero.
Hanging out with, what I would call, Prophetic type Christians for most of my adult life, the first thing to come to mind in light of my slim hopes in the natural realm, was that the Lord was certainly with me now and wanted to tell me what to do.
I have often felt the Lord answer my cries for help in less intense situations with something like, “You already know what to do…” and I felt He would say this again without even asking in this incredibly crazy situation.
A statement I began to get out of my mouth was that, “I can’t die because I have a word from the Lord that isn’t fulfilled.” I had recently received a great prophetic word spoken over my life, and the Kodiak area, by Mahesh Chavda while at a Pastors conference in Albany OR and though I have received several words over the years I found some humor in the fact that this one was only a few months old and so couldn’t have been fulfilled yet, right?
I remembered this concept pretty quickly as we had a running joke among some of my friends and my wife that, “we can’t die young,” after hearing some stuff from Graham Cooke about destiny and spoken word warfare.
This wasn’t at all a laughing matter and I really believed what I was saying, but I did get a kick out of the fact that we had been taking that truth lightly and here it was saving my life. I mention the names of these guys to emphasize the choice we have to honor the prophets and the fact that if you listen and receive them you will receive rewards that can shock you with lifesaving power.
Remember, I am drifting offshore with no position indicator beacon, trying to hang onto a 3ftx4ft open raft, in 50-60 knot winds and breaking seas mounting to twenty feet at this point. The only way I can describe the feeling of
God’s presence out there was, “He was the length of my eyelashes away from me”
I never had to “pray,” but felt “I was communing with the Lord.” In fact, I did, “know what to do,” and that was in the natural, to hang on to the raft, keep my body core out of the cold water as much as I could, etc., and in the spirit realm, believe that I can create strength and confidence by my spoken agreement with God’s word. I know that God created the wordls by speaking, “He said, Let there be light…” also that I was created in His image, so I can count it as truth that what I say, by faith, has the power to create life, or death. Proverbs 18:21 is the concept, “life and death are in the power of the tongue.”
It was a clear day so I could watch and gauge the time as daylight slipped away.
The intensity of the spiritual battle increased exponentially as it grew dark and I drifted further offshore into increasingly larger seas. I was pitched out of the raft by breaking seas many times, and learned to recognize the larger breaking wave by the sound of its hissing up behind me. I remember gauging these seas to be nearly thirty feet high, and they would literally turn the raft upside down, throw me out and down on the face of the wave , a sensation similar to body surfing. I was completely overcome and held under for several seconds.
Needless to say, I was not at all happy with getting dunked like that as I was beginning to get ice cold seawater inside the suit.
As the night and darkness drew on, the spiritual battle heated up considerably. I was reminded of the power of Contentment and Thankfulness and began applying it to every thing I could. Thoughts like, “Well at least I am in a survival suit,” and, “My suit does have a top of the line strobe light attached.” “At least I am in some kind of raft, and at least I got that fleece jacket on before I pulled the suit on,”
The fleece jacket and pants I had been wearing along with the capilene underwear were now obviously a huge factor in my fighting off hypothermia.
“I do have a good Epirb out there somewhere, and I am strong and a good swimmer with no fear of the water.”
There was definitely a grace from God to keep my mind on “the life” in the situation, but the battle to stay there versus considering the impossibility of hope was very real, and I had to fight for every inch in my thoughts and in my faith.
It was interesting to realize later that thoughts like “Remember to find something to be thankful for..” seemed like they came into my mind real clear and powerful like a headlight beam in the face when compared to some negative thoughts that I had to deal with which seemed like they crept up over the side of the raft out of the water from behind my shoulder or something.
I believe the enemy is more afraid of the light than we can imagine.
As the hours stretched on my thought life was really going strong and there were times when I found myself entertaining hopelessness in one form or another. It became clear how strong just thinking about something as relatively sound as,”I wonder if my life insurance will pay off and will it be enough for Amy and the boys?”
When entertained the negative thoughts I would actually begin to feel myself getting colder and slumping down further into the raft, which dropped my chest area into the icy water. When I realized what I was doing even with my thoughts, I would reverse it with some out loud sometimes yelling, “I shall live and not die!!” I could literally feel strength come into my bones and warm up my entire being. My favorite word was this, “I have sons to raise and a wife to love and I am the one You chose to do it, so get me there!”
I also felt clearly that the Lord is not bothered, but honored by that kind of confidence. I do realize that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” but feel the completion of wisdom is knowing who we are in Him fully receiving His Son and His wisdom.
I am sure the Lord was waiting for me to stand up in the spirit realm and do what I knew to do, walk in authority and receive as mine the strength to survive.
The bottom line verse to describe my relationship with the Lord through the entire ordeal was from John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, but I have called you friends,” The Holy Spirit was clearly reminding me of strategic things He had taught me on what to declare and think . I didn’t need to ask for help or guidance nor was I afraid and amazingly I did not feel alone at all.
It was as if I was surrounded by the opportunity to embrace His goodness and grace and I was the only one who could decide to ignore it and give up.
The battle in my mind was intense though and I cannot describe how hopeless this all was in the natural, watching the moon cross the sky feeling that the boat must be still laying on its side and not sinking, which kept the Epirb release from working. Surely if this was the case nobody knew what was happening but myself.
There was no way I would survive until the light of day in this water and if nobody knew I was lost, the chances I would live to morning were non existent.
It was going to be a slow death and I was not going to be able to just go to sleep as I had heard people do when freezing to death, I couldn’t hang on to the raft without full effort. Many times I wondered if some remote intercessor tuned into the heart of God was alerted to my situation, and was hoping the Lord would alert the people I know who can hear from God well. ( I did find out later that people were already praying, Kathie Walters and others had been praying on and off all day, knowing nothing about what was happening.)
One of the most amazing moments was when I realized that, in the process of getting rolled out of the raft by breaking seas I got worked over so hard physically that my body was totally warmed up again by the sheer exhertion.
As I lay in the raft hyperventilating to catch my breath after one of these experiences I realized that if this wasn’t happening I would be just laying on top of the raft in super cold wind and would have undoubtedly have gone to sleep and never woken again.
I remember laughing with the Lord about His method of keeping me awake and deciding it was worth saying, “Well Lord, Thanks for that..” What slipped out next was, “But, can we be done with that for a while?”
Earlier on I had tried the , “Peace be still” thing a few times and felt the Lord answer, “That’s a good try but that’s not what I’m doing.” No explanation needed, but it made sense later. As my feet began to get really cold and I was thinking about the reality of trying to stay alive till dawn I began asking the Lord to warm up the water and in another crazy exchange, believing the Lord might do this for me, I specifically asked “How about hot tub temp like 105 degrees?” when I heard His clear reply, “You’re warm enough.” The truth is, I was, and somehow hearing that from the Lord was enough to really make me laugh.
I felt the Lord got a chuckle out of the whole wave rolling thing also and though that may seem too much for some people to believe, the truth is, I was warm enough and though it was exhausting, it was keeping me alive.
Many experts in the area are amazed that after ten hours in Alaskan water I was even able to talk much less stand up after that level of exposure.
The single most significant thing the Lord showed me, happened around six hours after the capsizing when I remembered something I had been hearing over and over on my MP3 player while fishing. It was at the end of somebody’s message when an Elder Prophet, Bob Jones, was speaking about some stuff and one single line stuck in my mind and resurfaced in the middle of the night.
This was a perfect example of that concept and it saved my life I am quite sure. It was only one sentence but I had heard it maybe ten or more times in the last month. Bob was talking about Angels and said something li
ke, “Most people are still just tryin’ to believe in angels, I don’t just believe in ’em, I use ’em.” The last part of that came clearly into my spirit in the middle of the night, and though I had known that concept for years and been growing in faith for dispatching angels from an intercessory stance.
This time it was totally different, I felt a revelation of Psalm 91:11 come into my spirit that I do have authority over the Angels assigned to my protection. Jesus gave it to me to use. I just got with it for maybe twenty seconds and shouted “Angels Go, and set that Epirb off, Go, and tell my wife I’m in trouble, Go, and alert the Intercessors, and Go, and guide the Coast Guard to me.” As soon as I finished, it lifted, and I never thought about it again. Those had been the main things I was needing from the Lord, my wife is one who has favor with the Lord to an incredible degree and she is fierce when it comes to our boys or my safety and I needed her to know.
I also knew we had some strong intercessors in Kodiak and across the nation that are tuned in enough to hear the Lord wake them in the middle of anything and, if they knew I was fighting for my life, they could get some stuff done in the spirit realm.
In the natural I need the Epirb to activate and I need a CG helicopter ASAP.
I found out later from the Coastguard the timeline for their reaction to the Epirb signal reception was something like this:
8:51 – Epirb signal received, registered to Alan Ryden, Pacific Lady, 8:52 – Contacted Elana White at Ryden Home (my mother in law was watching our son while Amy was at a Dream Interpretation Meeting) Remember though I had been in the water for several hours when they recived this signal
.8:53pm – Coast Guard C-130 launched to locate Epirb and any survivors (a C-130 had been on a training mission far to the east in nicer weather and had just landed sitting on the runway with props still spinning, when given the order to launch.
Those times are approximate in my memory but it was only a few minutes from the Epirb’s first transmission to my wife getting a call to know my Epirb was going off. She happened to be at a prophetic dream interpretation meeting with several of the heavy hitter intercessors of our church at the time so, these intercessors were now in the fight, and the Coast Guard was on it’s way. I firmly believe that all transpired in conjunction with my sending of those angels to get some specific stuff done.
I did not ask the Lord to send them, but on His word both in the written Psalms, and in the spoken prophetic word brought to remembrance, I sent them, and they moved out on my behalf.
It is very hard to describe what I was walking in as far as approval with the Lord there was just no wondering about what I was supposed to do. It was as if the Lord was giving me a chance to see what I am designed for and what Jesus meant when He said “It is finished.” Just an entirely new level of spiritual strength. Alongside this, was also a clear recognition that if I hadn’t been prepared by walking in the “spirit of a sound mind” from II Tim 1: 7, I would not have been in a suit and on a raft and in good physical shape to survive.
I remember hearing the sound of a C-130, a large four engine plane, roaring overhead and looking up to see it’s running lights zooming over, doing a large turn followed by a direct pass over my head.
It was more a feeling like “Ok, now we’re getting this done” as if I expected to be rescued though I had no reason to believe it could still happen at that point. I later heard that the Epirb was marking a position nearly 7miles from my raft and the Coastguard pilot spotted the strobe on my suit in the huge frothing water and nothing else would have led them to me.
I knew that the tough part might still be ahead of me as Helicopters with their rescue swimmers and hoisting capacity would possibly still be in Kodiak waiting to hear from the C-130 that there was someone in the water before launching and it could be another hour and a half before I was actually rescued out of the water.
I would have to keep going and the weather was not abating. But now I had a defined period of time to rescue and as they flew over several times dropping flares to mark my position my morale soared with each drop, they knew I was here.
After several flare drop passes I noticed a small light drifting towards me and trying to figure out if it was a flare that was not lighting very well. I watched intently as it drifted closer and as it loomed into view I realized it was a small light on a life raft dropped from the air and it drifted right up to me and literally bumped into my little raft, unbelievable and totally amazing. That had to be an angelic encounter right there – guiding that small life raft
I reached out, grabbed hold and rolled right in. As recounted to me by the Coastguard-130 crew it is an amazing drop if they get within thirty yards on a clear windless day, but to drop it close enough for me to reach out and grab in 50 knot winds and accompanying seas is beyond belief.
The C-130 had to depart to refuel but not before co ordinating a search with a large fishing vessel they had found traveling in the area.
The captain later mentioned, “I had no idea why he was traveling in that area as he would usually be far offshore in weather like we were in that night.”
His boat is called the F/V Heritage, and is owned by a Christian I have known for many years. Another miracle! By the time the sound of Helicopter blades reached my ears I had already seen the lights of the large boat off in the distance and was preparing myself for the possibility of getting picked up by a boat and missing my helicopter ride and cup of tea at home in two hours.
Sure enough, the helo flew over fast, a couple times, marking my position for the boat to find me and as they pulled into view I recognized the Heritage from a distance. The Heritage crew did an amazing job of laying the boat alongside a little guy in a raft in big seas though the captain and I agreed the weather had seemed to be laying down for the rescue before picking back up for the rest of the night.
They pulled alongside me and threw a life ring perfectly within reach and though my legs were cramping up when I tried to sit up in the raft somehow I grabbed the life ring and held on. As I was pulled close the boat rolled down into me and I just stood up grabbed the rail at mid chest height and held on as the crew pulled me aboard when the boat rolled the opposite way.
The crew dragged me and my suit full of water inside the (boat) house and helped me down into the engine room, the warmest part of the boat so I could begin warming my body core temperature.
I remember looking at my watch amazed it was running and even more amazed to see it was after midnight, I had been the water for over ten hours!
I pulled off my wet clothes, was into borrowed clothes in no time and began thinking, “I better go up to the galley to get some warm fluid intake happening.”
I surprised everyone walking out the engine room door within ten minutes looking for a cup of coffee. I remember the captain asking if I was ok as I was pulled aboard, and feeling, “I am so ok!”
I was on a boat again and alive for sure. I wished later, I had said more about how long I had been in the water as they might have lifted me into the Helo for the one hour ride home instead of a 28 hour run on board the Heritage in storm conditions. I was very much ok though, and I heard later, both the CG pilots and Kodiak doctors were amazed I had not been hypothermic after that much exposure. A Coast Guard survival expert exclaimed during an interview a few days later, “You’re the survival story of the year.”
All I can say is God is Good, and these are exciting days to be a Christian, eh?
I do feel the Lord is bringing a message through this story concerning who we are and what we can walk in
if we choose to apply truth. We as Christians, the children of the King, have got to get a real handle on who we are. The battle is definitely heating up in the spiritual realm and it is imperative that we walk in the authority Jesus paid for, and then gave to us.
It is a state of being actively deceived, to stay focused on our weakness and walk in anything less, and we will walk in what we confess and focus on with our thoughts. It is a heated battle for our minds and tongues only because the enemy is well aware of what we can do if we actually believe the word. I also need to encourage everyone who has a calling on your life, that means everybody, to begin preparing now by applying the “Spirit of a sound mind” to your life and get full of the Word, build your sword because you probably will not have your strong’s at hand when it gets real crazy. What are you consuming and what is your belly full of? What is going to come out of you in the Fray?
Don’t wait for a crisis to figure out what you really believe – figure it out now and get your “Amens” in a row. Get the promises of God inside you -in your heart and innermost being. Then when the crisis comes you will know what to do and what to believe.
These really are exciting days to be a Christian, right?
Pastor Alan Ryden