Tug is run aground intentionally in Buzzards Bay to avoid sinking

As Southern Cross began taking on water on its way to the Cape Cod Canal, its captain decided to run it up on a sandy area near Demarest Lloyd State Beach. The tug had 1,500 gallons of fuel aboard, but none was spilled. (Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

A 1,200-hp construction tugboat was intentionally grounded by its master to prevent sinking after the vessel began flooding in Buzzards Bay, Mass.

Southern Cross reported to the U.S. Coast Guard that it was taking on water at about 1330 hours Nov. 9, 2008, off Mishaum Ledge. The master maneuvered the vessel into 12 feet of water where it grounded in sand off Demarest Lloyd State Beach, according to Dartmouth, Mass., Harbormaster Steven Melo, who was the first to arrive on the scene.

At the time of the accident, the 82-foot Southern Cross was proceeding toward the Cape Cod Canal and did not have a tow. The flooding was caused by a following sea that caused the stern deck to be awash, said Rob Lockyer, general manager for the vessel’s owner, Patriot Marine LLC of Winthrop, Mass.

“Because the tug was light, it was very low in the stern,” said Lockyer.

The harbormaster and two assistants arrived aboard their 22-foot AMBAR patrol vessel and stood by Southern Cross until the Coast Guard arrived.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Etta Smith said the tug was carrying about 1,500 gallons of fuel and about 100 gallons of oily water in its bilge at the time of the grounding. Winds approached 30 mph and seas were running 3 to 4 feet.

The Coast Guard responded with a Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew launched from Air Station Cape Cod, a fixed-wing Coast Guard Auxilary aircraft and a 47-foot boat crew from Coast Guard Station Menemsha. Smith said that a boom was placed around the vessel and all vents and watertight hatches were secured to prevent any environmental damage. There was some sheen on the water, but it quickly dissipated.

The helicopter dropped a pump, but the tug captain decided to take himself and two crew off as the vessel began to list to port. The tug was anchored and the Coast Guard stood by the vessel until the following day when the crew re-boarded.

Once aboard, the crew used the vessel’s pump to dewater the tug. Southern Cross was righted by a Patriot Marine crane barge. After the tug was towed to deeper water, its engine was restarted within 15 to 20 minutes. Lockyer said that there was no damage to the vessel or any pollution associated with the incident.

The accident remains under investigatation.

John Snyder

By Professional Mariner Staff