Crew rescued from superstructure of sinking tug near La. coastline

The crew of a Coast Guard cutter rescued two mariners from the superstructure of their capsized tugboat while both vessels were responding to a grounded trawler off Louisiana. 

The 900-hp Katlynn Necole was about two miles offshore from Baptiste Collette Bayou in the Mississippi River delta when it began taking on water at about 1430 on Jan. 5. The vessel was turning around and heading back to shore to avoid rough seas when the trouble started. 

“When we turned around, we got caught in a side sea,” said Lenny Jourdan, owner of LA Marine of Venice, La., which operated the tug. “Somehow, the boat started taking on water and the next thing you knew it was going down.”

The vessel later sank in about 8 feet of water, he said. The Coast Guard is investigating the incident but declined to comment on a possible cause, according to agency spokeswoman Lora Ratliff.

The two-person crew aboard Katlynn Necole made an emergency call via hand-held radio. The Coast Guard cutter Razorbill, which was nearby responding to the grounded trawler, diverted to the stranded tug.

The rescue crew reached the boat in a matter of minutes, according to Jourdan, who was not on board at the time. The tug was mostly submerged when help arrived, and the mariners were standing on its superstructure, the Coast Guard said.

“The superstructure was approximately 5 to 6 feet above water and the Coast Guard cutter Razorbill crewmembers were able to pull the towboat members down into the cutter’s small boat,” Ratliff said. “According to the executive petty officer of the cutter, the rescue went very smoothly and they were able to rescue the members of the towboat within minutes of arriving on scene.”

There were no injuries. The Coast Guard said Razorbill’s crew were not available for comment. 

Katlynn Necole was an inland oil field service boat built in 1983, Jourdan said. It was called out to help pull the trawler off a sand flat but turned back after encountering “6- or 7-foot rollers.” He declined to speculate on what caused his vessel to take on water. 

Couvillion Group of Belle Chasse, La., performed the salvage, which began Jan. 11 and lasted about three days. President Timmy Couvillion said the tug landed on its port side and was sitting about 18 feet deep in mud, with only 2 feet of the stern exposed, when they started work. 

“To see it sink so far in the mud was very unusual,” he said. “It was unique in that respect, and the challenge was associated with the mud.”

His crews dug a hole adjacent to where the tug rested in the mud, and used six points of contact to essentially roll it back onto its starboard side. Crews used pumps to remove mud and liquids from the vessel. The remaining mud affected its stability. 

Couvillion, who oversaw the salvage, said crews rigged the tug to a spud barge and towed it to Shipyard Service, a yard in Venice. 

Despite those efforts, Katlynn Necole won’t be repaired. Jourdan said his insurance company declared the vessel a total loss.

By Professional Mariner Staff