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Barge damages yacht during maneuver near Connecticut terminal

An aerial image of the West Branch of Stamford Harbor shows the proximity of the O&G Industries terminal (foreground) and the site of the new Hinckley marina (yellow circle). “The new marina is right at the end of the federal channel … right at the beginning of the turning basin where the tugs actually maneuver,” says Harbormaster Eric Knott.

Courtesy Eric Knott

A loaded gravel barge being guided to a terminal in Stamford, Conn., struck a high-end sailboat docked at a newly built marina, extensively damaging the vessel.

The lead barge pushed by the 1,800-hp tugboat Seeley hit the 52-foot catamaran Sea Jay at about 1030 on Sept. 17 in the West Branch of Stamford Harbor. The tug was on final approach with two barges to the O&G Industries terminal at the time. The yacht was docked at Hinckley boatyard located immediately south of the terminal.

Stamford Harbormaster Eric Knott said Seeley was reconfiguring its two barges from a line-ahead to side-by-side setup when the accident happened.

“What they were trying to do is pivot the barge around to port so they had two barges side by side,” Knott said in a recent phone interview. “They still had the line attached — it’s a common move in the harbor.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is still investigating the incident and has not determined the cause, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Hunter Medley of Sector New York.

The lead barge struck the rear of the portside pontoon on Sea Jay as the barge pivoted into the side-by-side configuration, Knott said. The impact tore off part of that pontoon and damaged internal structures on the boat. The starboard pontoon was damaged from getting pushed into the dock.

Sea Jay, a custom-built yacht valued at roughly $1.3 million, was at Hinckley undergoing final outfitting for a voyage to the South Pacific. Sea Tow later hauled the vessel to Norwalk Cove Marina, which pulled it out of the water. No monetary estimate of the damage was available.

Hinckley staff reported light sheening in the waterway after the incident, and responders deployed boom and sorbent pads to recover any fuel in the waterway, Medley said. Information on the amount of fuel that entered the waterway, and its source, was not available.

The O&G terminal is located toward the back of the harbor’s West Branch, which runs almost north-south near the city’s downtown. Reaching the terminal dock requires passage through several marinas on both sides of the waterway.

Authorities recently approved construction of the Hinckley yard and its placement of slips in the waterway, despite strong objections from Knott and some other harbor stakeholders. He said he predicted two years ago that such an accident was likely. The marina became operational in June.

“The new marina is right at the end of the federal channel … right at the beginning of the turning basin where the tugs actually maneuver,” Knott said. “This is where the tugs start to maneuver and reconfigure things.”

Peter Manion, general manager of Hinckley Yacht Services in Stamford, acknowledged that the marina runs right up against the O&G terminal near the navigation channel. He believes Sea Jay was located outside the channel but noted the Coast Guard will make a final determination.

“We’re sorry for the damage to the boat because the owners were getting ready to go on a long trip and they have been delayed,” he said. “How long is to be determined.”

Weeks Marine of Cranford, N.J., owns the 37-year-old model bow Seeley. The names and dimensions of the two barges were not available. Weeks Marine did not respond to phone and email requests for comment about the accident.

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