Crew rescued after towboat capsizes in Intracoastal Waterway


Four crewmembers escaped from a towboat that capsized and partially sank in the Intracoastal Waterway near Brunswick, Ga.

The 1,200-hp Miss Addison was heading south in narrow Jekyll Creek when the towboat abruptly listed to port before rolling onto its side, said John Salonen of Salonen Marine, the vessel operator. Crew climbed onto the starboard side to await rescue.

The Coast Guard is investigating the incident, which happened on Dec. 19 at about 1745 just west of Jekyll Island, a resort haven in Georgia’s Golden Isles region. The service hasn’t said what caused the incident, and Salonen isn’t sure either.

“We don’t know yet,” he said in early January. “We are investigating, and I just left the site not too long ago. It’s absolutely a complete mystery to us at this point.”

In the days leading up to the incident, Miss Addison delivered a barge from Morgan City, La., to Norfolk, Va. It was returning to a company dock in Fernandina Beach, Fla., about 30 miles south of Jekyll Island, when it rolled over.

The vessel was making about 7 knots at the time, and it was about an hour before high tide. Salonen said there were no signs the vessel hit the bottom.

“Nobody felt a bump or rubbing, so it does not appear she grounded. She more or less fell over to the port side,” he said, adding that the entire episode lasted only a minute or so.

The capsized vessel ended up partially submerged in 5 to 8 feet of water that varies with the tides. Salonen acknowledged the situation could have been far worse had the tug been in deeper water.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) learned of the incident at 1747, and a response crew arrived at about 1800. In an incident report, Cpl. Kate Hargrove of DNR Law Enforcement said she took the four crew onto her vessel and transported them to the Jekyll Island boat ramp, where emergency medical crews stood by. She said none of the crew reported any injuries.

It’s not clear how much fuel Miss Addison had on board. Authorities spotted light sheening around the vessel immediately after the capsizing, but that likely came from grease and oil on the weather deck rather than marine diesel, according to DNR spokesman Tyler Jones. Crews later placed boom around the tug and pumped out about 2,300 gallons of fuel. Jones said no pollution was found on nearby shorelines or marshes.​

Darbor Marine of Kenner, La., owns the 60-foot Miss Addison and leased it to Salonen Marine of Yulee, Fla., on a bareboat charter. On its website, Darbor said the 43-year-old towboat underwent a full rebuild in 2016 that included new gears, propellers and Mitsubishi engines.

The vessel has operated almost nonstop for the past year, Salonen said, and he considers it a workhouse. A few months ago it underwent dry-dock repairs in New Orleans for a broken tailshaft but otherwise has been relatively problem-free, he said.

Salvage crews were expected to arrive by mid-January to refloat the vessel. Once upright again, Salonen planned to tow it back to the company dock in Fernandina Beach for repairs.

“When she is up,” Salonen said, “I am hopeful we will find out why she capsized.”

By Professional Mariner Staff