Excursion vessel carrying high school oceanographic students runs aground in Alaska

The passenger excursion vessel St. Nicholas grounded in Berner’s Bay, Alaska, about 40 miles from Juneau on May 19.

The vessel’s owner/operator, Allen Marine Inc., of Sitka, Alaska, notified the Coast Guard at about 1215 that day that the vessel had grounded in about half a foot of water on a sandbar about 45 minutes earlier.

St. Nicholas was on charter for the Juneau-Douglas High School oceanographic class and was proceeding in the estuary at one-half idle speed when it grounded in soft sand, according to company spokesman Jim Collins. There were 93 passengers and six crewmembers aboard at the time. No one was injured.

Collins said the company dispatched another vessel, St. Herman, to the scene. All the passengers were transferred to St. Herman.

According to Petty Officer Sara Francis, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Coast Guard in Anchorage, St. Nicholas was refloated on the next high tide and returned to Juneau under its own power.

Collins said the students were transferred to St. Herman as a safety precaution and that St. Nicholas, a 78-foot, jet-propelled aluminum catamaran did not sustain any damage.

At the time of the accident, weather conditions were good with 10-mile visibility and a 5-knot breeze. The grounding is still under investigation.   •

By Professional Mariner Staff