Punctured boat patched

Chartered yacht towed to Ketchikan

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2001

The 96-foot charter yacht Alaskan Song, which ran onto submerged rocks and started flooding Thursday morning south of Angoon, was being towed to Alaska Ship & Dry Dock in Ketchikan for repairs.

The vessel is due to arrive late today or early Saturday, said Carl Smith, operations manager of Alaska Ship & Dry Dock.

"For a wooden boat, it has a fair amount of damage," Smith said. "I had a cell phone message from the captain that the aft port strut was pushed through the bottom of the boat. So they probably hit a rock on the strut."

Repairs to the strut alone could cost $10,000. Smith was reluctant to give an estimate for total damages.

"I won't know until we see how bad it is. It took them a couple hours to get it off the rocks, patched up and headed this way," he said.

Smith said he hopes to get it back in the water by Tuesday.

Marine investigators will meet the Alaskan Song to try to figure out what happened, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Darrell Wilson. "Ships of this size have the capability of getting much closer to the shore than other boats; whether it was too close, I don't know," he said.

Speedy action by the Alaskan Song's captain, Geoff Wilson, and the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Liberty saved the ship from sinking, said Petty Officer Wilson.

Capt. Wilson intentionally beached the boat, which suffered bent propellers, bent rudders and three holes in its hull. The Liberty was only five miles away when the mayday went out about 8 a.m., and Coast Guard crewmen used

submersible pumps to keep the boat afloat at Chaik Bay. Additional pumps were flown to the scene by a helicopter from Air Station Sitka.

All 11 people on board were rescued: Seven passengers, one company representative and three crew members. The crew of the Alaskan Song is typically Geoff Wilson, his wife Debbie Bennett and a niece and a nephew, according to the Alaskan Song's Web site. Wilson and Bennett hired Ward Air to fly eight of the people aboard to Glacier Bay Lodge in Gustavus, said Joe Bowers, general manager of the lodge.

Geoff Wilson and Bennett remained with the ship during its towing. The guests were expected to stay at the lodge for two more days. None of them could be reached for comment.

Wilson and Bennett operate as Alaska Yacht Charters out of Bainbridge Island, Wash. The couple has 10 years' experience chartering in Alaska, according to its Web site.

The Alaskan Song is a luxury craft with four staterooms. The yacht can cruise at 12 knots. For fishing and sightseeing, it carries two 15-foot Boston Whalers and two double kayaks.

The Alaskan Song makes six-day trips between Juneau and Sitka, according to its Web site. It made its initial 2001 voyage from Friday Harbor to Juneau in late April. Trips were sold out from May 3 through Sept. 20 for all but two weeks late in the season.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.

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