Pocket cruise ship sinks after hitting rock in a remote bay

Ten passengers and six crewmembers escaped unharmed after the pocket cruise ship M/V Safari Spirit ran aground May 8 on a submerged rock in a tiny wilderness bay off the coast of British Columbia.

Safari Spirit lies pinned on a rock on a falling tide in Kisameet Bay after efforts by the master to work the vessel free failed.
   Image Credit: Shearwater Marine Resort

The 105-foot vessel operated by American Safari Cruises was on a voyage from Seattle to Juneau, Alaska. On May 7 it had anchored for the night in Kisameet Bay. Shortly after 0700 the next day, it ran onto charted rocks about 4 feet below the surface in the middle of the bay. The tide was dropping, and at 0730, the ship reported that it was aground and listing heavily. Two rescue vessels arrived about an hour later, and at least one commercial fishing boat responded to the call.

Passengers and crew donned survival suits. The master ordered the evacuation of the passengers, who left in Safari Spirit’s shore tender. They were picked up outside the entrance to the bay by a Shearwater Marine Resort vessel and were taken to the closest community, Shearwater, on Denny Island about 25 miles north.

The master tried to maneuver the ship free of the rock under the bow, but by 1030, Safari Spirit had rolled and begun taking water over the stern. The vessel then slid down the rock into 70 feet of water. The stern settled on the bottom, while 10 to 20 feet of the bow remained above the surface.

“It’s not a well-known anchorage for large vessels, especially passenger vessels,” said Darren Morley, maritime search and rescue coordinator at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt.

After taking water over the stern, Safari Spirit slid down the rock, with the stern eventually coming to rest on the bottom.

Gordon Thorne, a spokesman for American Safari Cruises based in Lynwood, Wash., said the vessel had anchored in Kisameet Bay on three previous excursions without incident. “A hallmark of American Safari Cruises is up-close cruising, being able to get into bays and coves that megaliners can’t,” he said.

The accident is under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office Puget Sound in Seattle.

The aluminum hull was not breeched, and the ship leaked only small amounts of oil and hydraulic fluid, which were entrapped by a containment boom.

Salvors from Shearwater Marine Group raised Safari Spirit on May 15 by slinging it between two barges. It was towed to Shearwater on May 17, where insurers were assessing the damage to the $4 million yacht.

By Professional Mariner Staff