Crew of Canadian tug survives tripping by loaded log barge

Glenshiel, a 73-foot tug, was making a turn when it was overrun by its fully loaded log barge. When the tug sank, the four crew were able get into a life raft. (Courtesy Ed Whitebone)


The four-man crew of a 73-foot tug that sank off British Columbia’s Central Coast June 6 survived by clambering from their life raft onto the log barge they were towing.

The tug Glenshiel, owned by More Marine Ltd., had cleared Nakwakto Rapids and was making a turn when it was overtaken by the log barge fully loaded with boomsticks, 66-foot logs used to make floating frames around log tows.

Nakwakto Rapids have “the fastest navigable tidal currents in the world,” according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The tide runs 9 to 12 knots on the flood and 11 to 16 knots on the ebb, reaching its highest velocity on spring ebbs.

“The problem developed when they began the turn,” said Kerry Morris, owner of More Marine Ltd. “The barge was moving at a high rate and moving in faster water, and the boat stayed in slower water and the momentum of the barge pulled the tug over. The crew was up at the time they were shooting the narrows. The boat went over very quickly, and the crew ended up in the water with no time to send a distress call.”

Morris said the safety equipment worked perfectly. The life rafts surfaced and three of the crew got aboard and located the skipper, whom they “basically revived.”

The raft was then caught in a back eddy that propelled them to the stern of the barge, where they were able to climb aboard and start a fire using flares and bark from the deck.

Responding to the EPIRB signal, a Canadian Coast Guard 53-foot medium-endurance lifeboat Cape Sutil arrived and recovered the crew.

Glenshiel was a steel vessel built at Owen Sound in 1943. It is listed as having a gross tonnage of 99 tons. It was 73 feet long with a beam of 20 feet.

The tug had recently been refurbished, with new engines, stern, electronic controls and hydraulic power plant, and a rebuilt winch.

“The Glenshiel was a fine boat. A beautiful classic tugboat design, fast and seaworthy, she’s been rebuilt with new engines, and she was running perfectly and had never been better,” Morris said.

“It is a real sad day to see her go, and the crew is very sad in her loss. The crew took great pride in her and I think she will be missed by all of us.”

“No one suffered any permanent physical damage, but the event has traumatized the crew, as it would anyone,” he continued. “They did everything right. At this point, we can find no fault with the men or, for that matter, the equipment. This was an unfortunate incident where nature, the variation of tide in terms of high rainfalls and freshet affects flows and timing and unfortunately led to the loss of the vessel and very fortunately led to no loss of life.”

By Professional Mariner Staff