Cruise ship forced to return to Juneau after scraping bottom in Tracy Arm

Posted: Thursday, June 05, 2008

A cruise ship scraped the bottom of the Tracy Arm fjord Wednesday morning, forcing its crew to cut short its trip and call the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance.

The Spirit of Alaska called the Coast Guard around 8 a.m. Wednesday, Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read said.

The boat is owned by Seattle-based Cruise West, which says on its Web site that the 143-foot boat has a "shallow draft" that makes for "optimum wildlife viewing."

There were 41 passengers on board and 22 crew members, Read said. He said there were no reported injuries.

After hitting bottom, the boat anchored and waited for an inspector from the Coast Guard and a commercial diver to survey the damage to the boat, Read said.

He said the Coast Guard had dispatched two boats and a helicopter to assist the boat. A tugboat was scheduled to pull the Spirit of Alaska back to Juneau on Wednesday evening, according to the Coast Guard.

A spokesman for Cruise West said Wednesday afternoon that the Spirit of Alaska was on the second day of a seven-day trip that was to start and end in Juneau.

Spokesman Al Patrone said the passengers on the Spirit of Alaska would transfer this morning to another Cruise West boat, the Spirit of Endeavor, and would resume their tour.

Patrone said the Spirit of Alaska would proceed to a dry dock in Ketchikan for a more thorough examination.

Last month, Cruise West's Spirit of Columbia lost power near Warm Springs Bay and had to be towed back to Juneau.

And in 1999, a Cruise West boat had to be evacuated after it sustained damaged to its hull in Tracy Arm.

The Tracy Arm fjord, about 45 miles south of Juneau, is one of the more popular destinations for sightseeing cruises in town.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or e-mail

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