Alaska tour boat evacuated after holing hull on a rock

The tour boat Star of the Northwest struck a submerged object and began taking on water in Resurrection Bay, Alaska, on July 25, 2004, forcing the evacuation of the 161 people aboard.

Passengers wearing life vests line the rails of Star of the Northwest, while awaiting their transfer to Great Land. Two of the vessel’s five watertight compartments flooded.
   Image Credit: Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard received a mayday from Star of the Northwest at about 1530, but it is unclear what time the accident actually occurred. The ship reported that it was taking on water and that two of its five watertight compartments had flooded.

The incident occurred in wind, rain and fog in Eldorado Narrows east of Fox Island, about 13 miles south of Seward.

The 115-foot tour vessel was taking its passengers to view wildlife in the half-mile-wide narrows, but was apparently too close to one side of the channel when it hit what appears to have been a charted rock, according to a spokesman for Major Marine Tours Inc., of Anchorage, which owns the vessel. The area where the incident occurred is visited regularly by Star of the Northwest.

After receiving the distress call, the Coast Guard mobilized a Jayhawk helicopter and a C-130 aircraft. A Coast Guard Auxiliary rescue boat and a rescue boat from the Coast Guard cutter Mustang were dispatched to the aid of Spirit of the Northwest. A number of other vessels responded, including Legend, a sportfisherman, and Great Land, a tour boat owned by Kenai Fjords Tours of Seward.

Coast Guard rescue crews brought pumps aboard Star of the Northwest and helped passengers transfer to Great Land for transport back to Seward. No injuries were reported.

Six crewmembers and two Coast Guard crew from Mustang remained aboard the stricken vessel as it was towed back to Seward for damage assessment and repair.

A spokesman for Major Marine Tours said that once repairs were completed the company was hoping that the vessel would be back in service before the end of the busy summer tourist season.

Chief Petty Officer Roger W. Wetherell, of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office in Juneau, said that the cause of grounding was still under investigation.

By Professional Mariner Staff