Towline snags propeller, disabling Coast Guard cutter off Alaska


A Coast Guard cutter became disabled in the Gulf of Alaska after a towline snagged its propeller while the ship was responding to a stranded fishing vessel.

The incident occurred Jan. 6 roughly 230 miles east-southeast of Kodiak, Alaska, when the cutter Spar’s crew attempted to pass a messenger line to crew aboard F/V Lady Gudny, which was experiencing fuel problems and had run out of filters. Coast Guard spokesman William Colclough said the transfer was complicated by harsh weather.

Spar and Lady Gudny drifted in 20- to 22-foot seas with 50-mph winds and eventually collided, damaging both vessels. A Coast Guard helicopter team later rescued the four fishermen aboard Lady Gudny.

“The Spar attempted to bring the Lady Gudny into tow and they were in the process of transferring the towline … but they were not able to because of the harsh sea state,” Colclough told Professional Mariner.

The Coast Guard is conducting two investigations into the incident and both were still open as of late January. One focuses on the collision between the two vessels and the other pertains to Lady Gudny’s casualty. Due to the ongoing inquiries, the Coast Guard would not discuss key aspects of the case.

Lady Gudny first reported fuel problems to the Coast Guard’s 17th District Command Center at about 0145 on Jan. 5. About six hours later, the vessel had run out of fuel filters and could no longer operate its engine. Trident Seafoods, a Seattle company that owns the vessel, arranged for a load of fuel filters to be airdropped to Spar, but it’s not clear if the delivery took place.

Spar, a 225-foot buoy tender based in Kodiak, reached the 103-foot U.S.-flagged Lady Gudny the next morning and its crew attempted to pass the towline over to the fishing vessel. The line then became tangled in Spar’s single propeller.

“I don’t know the sequence of when that happened, but because of the rough sea state, the Spar and the Lady Gudny collided into each other. The Spar did become disabled and dead in the water for a period of time,” Colclough said. “Both vessels did sustain some damage from the collision. I don’t know to what extent, but there was some damage.”

Later that day, a Coast Guard MH-60 helicopter arrived and hoisted the four fishermen off the vessel and carried them back to Kodiak. Nobody on board required medical attention.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard sent the cutters Douglas Munro and Hickory toward the two drifting vessels and also diverted the cutter Alex Haley to their position. Amak Towing Co. also sent the tugboats Anna T and Chahunta.

Weather and sea conditions calmed to 10-foot seas and 20-mph winds by the time the tugs reached the stricken vessels. Anna T, a 4,400-hp tractor tug, towed Spar back to Kodiak on Jan. 7, while the 3,000-hp Chahunta began towing Lady Gudny there on Jan. 8.

Trident Seafoods did not respond to an email seeking information on the incident. Ketchikan-based Amak declined to comment on its role in the salvage, citing policy not to discuss client business.

By Professional Mariner Staff