No one injured as whale-watching boat runs onto a sandbar

Posted: Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Twenty tourists didn't seem upset that their whale-watching boat ended up on a sandbar Tuesday, the tour company's owner said. But even if the event added to their adventure, it isn't something he wants to do again.

"We were lucky," said Douglas Ward, owner of Dolphin Jet Boat Tours. The company had two other boats that arrived within five minutes, and between them there was room to take on the passengers from the Big Blue.

At 9:10 a.m., he said, the boat was stuck on the sand at Barlow Cut, a small body of water at a narrow Admiralty Island peninsula, about 10 miles west of Auke Bay.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Roger Wetherell said no one was injured in the incident. Half the passengers were transferred to the Red Dolphin, and half were transferred to the Summer Star.

The Big Blue waited for the tide to come in to float it off the sandbar a couple of hours after grounding.

"It was not taking on any water," Wetherell added.

The boat returned to Auke Bay. The Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office will investigate the incident, Wetherell said.

Ward said he won't know how badly the boat was damaged until the Coast Guard releases it.

"As far as we can tell, there was minor damage, if any," he said.

Ultimately, the responsibility for grounding the boat goes to the operator, whom he described as a great skipper - "and bounces back to me," Ward said.

Ward said he talked to passengers after they returned from the trip, and some considered the incident part of the adventure.

Tuesday, he added, is the busiest day of the week this season, and it has been a great season for seeing whales in the waters near Juneau.

"There are more whales out there than in the last 11 years," he said.

To accommodate Tuesday's bookings, he chartered another boat. Until he gets the boat back, Dolphin Jet Boat Tours will deal with the loss as best as it can, he said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at

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