Navigation News, November 2011
Maine fireboat damaged during navigational training
The 65-foot City of Portland IV struck a submerged object while undergoing navigation training on Oct. 15 in Casco Bay. The accident was the second involving the $3.2 million fireboat, which the city of Portland, Maine, put into service in September 2009.
The recent impact sheared off one of the boat's two shafts and damaged a propeller and the rudder, causing $38,000 worth of damage. The U.S. Coast Guard was not immediately notified.
There were two crewmembers aboard, along with 12 passengers. The Portland Press Herald reported that some of the passengers were family members of the firefighters, which raises questions about the claim that the boat was conducting a training exercise. Because of the incident, the fire department reviewed its practices and policies regarding transportation of civilians. As of Nov. 2, Portland Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne affirmed that civilians are no longer allowed aboard, unless accompanying a patient being taken to the hospital.
LaMontagne determined the accident to be preventable and the two crewmembers, a Portland fire chief and a firefighter, were temporarily suspended without pay. No one aboard was injured and the boat was able to return to port without aid.
Barge damages New Orleans bridge
A cement barge allided with the Chef Menteur Pass Highway 90 Bridge near New Orleans, La., on Oct. 26. The barge was being towed by two uninspected tugboats, the 62-foot Shannan C and the 69-foot Portier I.
The incident was reported to the U.S. Coast Guard by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. According to the Coast Guard, the bridge was stuck in the open position for a few hours, making vehicle traffic impossible. The cost of repairing the damage to the bridge was estimated at approximately $100,000.
There were no reports of pollution or injuries and the cause of the incident is still under investigation. "We are working with the bridge engineers to ensure the safety of the bridge and determine the cause of the allision," said Lt. j.g. Thomas Hedden, an investigating officer for Coast Guard Sector New Orleans.
Three fishermen swim to shore after running aground
Three fishermen were aboard the 50-foot New York when it began taking on water and grounded on a sandy beach just north of the Coos Bay entrance near North Bend, Ore., on Oct. 23 at about 0530.
The U.S. Coast Guard responded with a 47-foot motor lifeboat and an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter. Since the vessel was too unstable for the crew to be lifted to the helicopter, the fishermen swam to shore and were taken to awaiting EMS responders. No injuries were reported.
Debris washed onto the beach, and the captain reported that the vessel had 300 gallons of diesel fuel on board. The fuel was successfully removed the next day. The Coast Guard is working with the owner of the vessel to clean up the beach.
Tug sinks in Hudson River
The 31-foot tugboat Helen Parker capsized in New York's Hudson River on Oct. 13 at 1630. The tug had just picked up two people from Pier 90 and dropped them off on an offshore construction barge. The captain was pulling away from the barge when the tug started to tip. He fell into the water and was able to swim to the barge.
According to New York's ABC 7 news station, the tug continued to float downriver and then sank near Pier 84.
The captain was being treated at a hospital for minor injuries. An investigation is continuing to determine the cause of the sinking.
Amver vessel rescues five from capsizing sailboat
A sailboat crew of five were rescued with the assistance of an Amver (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue system) vessel in the Atlantic Ocean after 40-knot winds caused large waves to wash over their bow. The crew of the 39-foot Sanctuary sent a distress notification to the U.S. Coast Guard on Oct. 29 at about 0700, reporting that they were taking on water. The waves caused the boat to lose power along with their only life raft.
Sanctuary was located approximately 256 nautical miles northeast of Bermuda. Cruise ship Norwegian Gem was the closest vessel in range at about two hours away and responded to the Coast Guard's Amver request.
The Coast Guard launched an HC-130 Hercules aircraft to assist the Amver vessel, which was heading back to New York from Bermuda. There were no injuries and all five crewmembers were wearing life jackets. They were brought to safety aboard Norwegian Gem, which then continued on its way to New York.
Cruise ship shaken by high winds, some interior damage
Strong winds and rough seas hit Royal Caribbean International's Freedom of the Seas just off the Florida coast as the cruise ship was leaving Port Canaveral on Oct. 9 at about 1930. The ship experienced wind speeds more than three times what was forecast.
There were no serious injuries, but the ship sustained some damage to some public areas and guest rooms. The damage did not affect the sea-worthiness of the ship, so it continued its trip on schedule to the Bahamas.
Following the incident, other cruise ships that had been scheduled to leave decided to stay in port until the next day to let the storm pass.
Casualty flashback: October 1707
The Scilly naval disaster of 1707 was one of the greatest maritime disasters in the history of the British Isles. Four Royal Navy ships were lost along with more than 1,400 crewmen.
While returning home to England on Oct. 22, 1707, the fleet of 21 ships hit stormy weather, diverting the vessels off their path and steering them toward rocks off the Scilly Isles. The sailors were unaware that they were off course. It was later determined that the main cause of the disaster was the navigators' inability to calculate their longitude.
The four ships lost were the 90-gun HMS Association; 70-gun HMS Eagle; 50-gun HMS Romney; and fireship HMS Firebrand. The sunken ships lay undisturbed for almost 260 years. In 1973, the British Parliament instituted the Protection of Wrecks Act in order to keep treasure hunters away and preserve these historic wreck sites.
This disaster also spurred the Longitude Act of 1714, which offered monetary rewards to anyone who could provide a simple method for determining longitude at sea. The biggest reward went to John Harrison, inventor of the chronometer.