Incoming Tide Refloats Cruise Ship
KLAWOCK, Alaska (AP) _ The rising tide today refloated the cruise ship North Star, which ran aground off southeastern Alaska with 143 passengers aboard, the Coast Guard said.
No one was hurt when the 307-foot ship grounded Friday morning on rocks near Prince of Wales Island and began taking on water through two holes in the hull.
Passengers were evacuated three hours later to this Tlingit Indian village of 318 people, where they visited totem poles and other attractions and were flown to Ketchikan, the ship’s final destination about 60 miles away.
Some of the ship’s 60 crew members stayed aboard and patched the two holes, one 6 by 12 inches and one six inches in diameter, said Coast Guard Lt. Fulton Gregg in Juneau.
The rising tide refloated the North Star about 3 a.m., Gregg said.
″They’re pumping 900 to 1,000 gallons of water per minute out of the engine room with several pumps they’ve got going, so they’re lowering the water level in the engine room,″ Gregg said.
″The repairs evidently are holding, and things are looking pretty good.″
The North Star was being towed to the village, where it will tie up while authorities check the repairs, Gregg said. About 10 crew members remained aboard early today, Gregg said.
Seven members of the Coast Guard’s Pacific Strike Team were en route from the San Francisco area, Gregg said. Once here, they’ll check the damage, make sure there is no pollution problem from the ship’s tanks and advise on salvage efforts.
A Coast Guard marine investigator boarded the ship shortly after the grounding and has stayed nearby aboard a Coast Guard cutter, said Gregg, but there was no immediate word on what caused the ship to run aground.
Hank Combs, a passenger from Casper, Wyo., was on the observation deck when the ship hit the rocks. ″It thumped twice and came to a dead stop,″ he said.
Combs and other passengers said there was no panic. It was a half hour before they were told to don life jackets and lifeboats were lowered over the ship’s side but were not put into the water immediately, Combs said.
″It was kind of like a car accident where you stop suddenly,″ said passenger Marge Dolan of Olympia, Wash.
″It was a beautiful sunny day, the water was calm and it didn’t worry me,″ she said. ″We even ate lunch on the (ship’s) pool deck with our life jackets on (prior to evacuation).″
Passengers spent Friday night in Ketchikan, which had been today’s destination of the North Star, which was finishing a week-long cruise of southeastern Alaska.
The Bahamian-registered ship is based in Seattle and operated by Exploration Cruise Lines.