Chartered yacht hits rock in Chatham Strait

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- No one was injured when a chartered yacht apparently hit a rock and began taking on water early Thursday morning in Chatham Strait.

By Thursday afternoon divers had made temporary repairs to the 96-foot Alaskan Song, and arrangements were being made to have it towed to Ketchikan, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Darrell Wilson.

The Coast Guard received a call for help from the vessel about 8 a.m., when it was about 12 miles south of Angoon, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Darrell Wilson.

The Coast Guard cutter Liberty, which was about five miles away, responded. By the time it arrived, the Alaskan Song's crew had beached the boat about 100 yards away in Chaik Bay to keep it from sinking.

''The skipper said he was flooding fast, and as soon as he backed it off whatever he hit, he immediately beached it,'' Wilson said.

Seven passengers and four crew members were on board. The Coast Guard cutter took eight people off the damaged vessel, while three crew members remained on board, working with the Coast Guard to try to control the flooding.

The Alaskan Song was carrying about 1,000 gallons of fuel, but no leaks were found in the tanks and a helicopter crew flying above saw no signs of pollution.

''We have 11 safe people, one boat that did not sink and we have no pollution,'' Wilson said.

By Thursday afternoon, divers had made temporary repairs to the vessel and its owner -- Alaska Yacht Charters of Bainbridge Island, Wash., -- was having it towed to Ketchikan for more extensive repairs, Wilson said. The passengers were being flown to Glacier Bay Lodge.

It will be some time before Coast Guard investigators are certain of the cause of the accident, Wilson said. Investigators were interviewing passengers and crew Thursday and giving crew members drug tests, which is routine after such an accident.

''The skipper of the vessel told the Coast Guard that he believes he hit a rock,'' Wilson said.

The Coast Guard will check whether the vessel did indeed hit a rock, and if so, whether the rock was charted, Wilson said.

Damage to the boat included three holes, a bent rudder and a damaged propeller. Wilson did not know the size of the holes.

A phone call to Alaska Yacht Charters was not answered Thursday afternoon.

According to the company's Web site, the Alaskan Song is crewed by husband-and-wife team Geoff Wilson and Debbie Bennett and two other crew members. They have a combined 30 years experience chartering in the waters of Southeast Alaska, according to the Web site.

A schedule on the Web site indicates the vessel left Sitka on Tuesday for a cruise that was to end next Monday in Juneau.

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