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Ship's grounding Monday evening gave tourists a tale to tell

Posted: July 10, 2013 - 12:08am

They may not have seen whales breach or bubble net feeding, but the eight passengers on a whale watching tour aboard the Islander got a tale to tell the folks back home.

The 37-foot commercial vessel ran aground on the north shore of Shelter Island, about 20 minutes from Juneau by boat, on Monday evening.

Owner of Alaska Galore Tours Louis Juergens said the engine suddenly cut out, leaving the vessel adrift in the channel. Strong winds and current pushed it to shore.

Fortunately, he said, other boats were around, and good Samaritans helped escort the passengers off the Islander onto the beach.

The U.S. Coast Guard in Juneau confirmed no injuries were reported. Juergens said, in fact, the passengers thought it was a “thrilling experience.”

“They said that it was — the whale watching trip was a bit mediocre, and that made it a true adventure,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday.

The Coast Guard responded to the site of the grounding to ensure the safety of the passengers and inspected the area for pollution; none was found, according to District 17 Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Grant DeVuyst.

“Everything was non-distress,” DeVuyst said by phone.

Federal law requires commercial vessels that have run aground to notify the Coast Guard, as the Islander did, DeVuyst noted.

The captain stayed with the Islander until a salvage company arrived. Juergens reports it only sustained superficial damage, and its motor has already been repaired.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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