Power failure sends Ryndam to Auke Bay

Posted: Monday, August 12, 2002

Ryndam passengers woke up to views of Auke Bay instead of Glacier Bay this morning after a power outage left the cruise ship temporarily adrift in Lynn Canal.

The Holland America cruise ship lost power briefly about 1:30 a.m. in Lynn Canal and was brought into Auke Bay until the problem can be fixed, said Lt. Cmdr. Joe Paitl, executive officer at the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Juneau.

"It's a very serious event any time you lose power, especially in a ship that size," Paitl said.

The Ryndam was on her way from Skagway to Glacier Bay when one of the two generators running suddenly stopped. That caused the ship to lose propulsion, Paitl said. Within a minute the crew had three other generators running, but it took another 10 minutes to get the ship's bow and stern thrusters working. The thrusters control the lateral movement of the ship. Meanwhile, the 55,400-ton, 720-foot-long ship was at the mercy of the currents, he said.

"They had some power to certain electrical circuits, but they had lost their propulsion and the water's too deep to drop their anchor, so they essentially drifted down the center of the channel," Paitl said.

About 20 minutes after the generator failed, the ship regained full propulsion. Since Auke Bay was the closest port, the Coast Guard instructed the Ryndam to go there. The Ryndam arrived in Auke Bay about 4:30 a.m. with a tugboat escort.

This morning Coast Guard inspectors were on board, along with a vessel specialist who flew in to troubleshoot the problem. With the Ryndam's team of engineers they will try to recreate the malfunction in order to figure out what happened and prevent it from reoccurring, Paitl said.

"We just want to make sure the vessel's safe to operate," Paitl said.

The Ryndam was expected to set sail again this afternoon, but will skip Glacier Bay because of a storm in that area, said Holland America spokeswoman Rose Abello. Instead, the Ryndam will go to Tracy Arm and the Sawyer Glacier.

Though the loss of power was brief, the Coast Guard and ship's crew are taking it seriously. The Ryndam carries up to 1,266 passengers and 602 crew and the chances of an accident when a ship is adrift are very real, said Coast Guard spokesman Roger Wetherell.

"There are some dangerous areas out there, like Vanderbilt Reef for instance. It's in that same vicinity and we want to be sure if they do sail again that they have some contingency," Wetherell said. "We've seen instances before where passengers and crew members have suffered minor injuries solely from bumping into something, there's just so much size and force."

Last week another Holland America cruise ship, the Statendam, canceled a cruise because of generator problems. The Ryndam also was kept in port last week because of a virus outbreak on board.

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