Hidden object cause of Spirit of Nantucket grounding

VIRGINIA BEACH

Crews will try today to remove a large object from the Intracoastal Waterway that they suspect is responsible for slicing open the hull of a cruise ship Thursday.

Authorities don’t know whether the debris – possibly a cluster of sunken pilings – cut the foot-long hole in the hull of the Spirit of Nantucket. But it’s close to where the incident occurred, said Steven Baum of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The captain of the vessel, carrying 66 passengers and crew, turned it to the shoreline as it took on water, grounding it and saving it from sinking.

No one was hurt.

Corps personnel began searching the waterway Thursday and worked into the night, Baum said. They located the obstruction about 4 miles south of the Pungo Ferry Bridge.

Data from sonar scans show the object is about 45 feet long, Baum said. “It’s reducing the channel depth to 7-1/2 feet in an area where it’s supposed to be 12 feet minimum.”

If all goes as planned, the debris will be removed today, with the waterway opened by dusk, Baum said.

The Corps signed a contract Friday afternoon with Crofton Industries of Portsmouth to remove the debris within 12 hours.

The work is expected to cost about $35,000, Baum said, with other expenditures related to the incident putting the final bill in the $50,000 range.

“If we can figure out who owns it, we go after them,” Baum said. But if the debris is just a bundle of pilings, “chances are, it will be impossible to find

Once the debris is lifted, the Corps will do another survey of the area to make certain there are no other lingering dangers.

The sonar readings taken Thursday paint only a hazy image of what is in the water.

“Some of the preliminary information indicates it may be a cluster of pilings that are pinned together,” Baum said. If that’s the case, he suspects they rolled off a barge, and it probably happened recently.

He said that, given its size and location, it’s doubtful it could have been there long before some vessel hit it.

Baum said no captain would have been able to spot or avoid the submerged obstruction.

“No, never, never, never,” he said. “You would have hit it and it would have been all said and done.”

Whatever it is, it probably landed there by accident.

For now, the normally busy waterway has been closed to recreational boats with a draft of more than 6 feet and all commercial vessels.

It’s not known how many vessels pass through the area in a day, but “it is primarily used by recreational boaters and not commercial craft,” said Christopher Evanson, a Coast Guard spokesman.

The 178-foot Nantucket was on a 10-day cruise from Alexandria to Charleston, S.C., when it began taking on water suddenly as it traversed the waterway through Pungo on Thursday.

After it was grounded, the passengers were taken off by the Coast Guard and put up at an Oceanfront hotel by the ship’s parent company, Seattle-based Cruise West.

On Friday they had a choice of either continuing their trip by bus or heading home with a partial refund.

Evanson said the Nantucket has been “stabilized” and that it is no longer taking on water.

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One Response

  1. […] Al wrote something that might interest you todayHere’s a brief breakdownVIRGINIA BEACH Crews will try today to remove a large object from the Intracoastal Waterway that they suspect is responsible for slicing open the hull of a cruise ship Thursday. Authorities don’t know whether the debris – possibly a cluster of sunken pilings – cut the foot-long hole in the hull of the Spirit of Nantucket. But it’s close to where the incident occurred, said Steven Baum of the Army Corps of Engineers. The captain of the vessel, carrying 66 passengers and crew, turned it to the shoreline as it took on water, grounding it and saving it from sinking. No one was hurt. Corps personnel began searching the waterway Thursday and worked into the night, Baum said. They located the obstruction about 4 miles south of the Pungo Ferry Bridge. Data from sonar scans show the object is about 45 feet long, Baum said. “It’s reducing the channel depth to 7-1/2 […] […]

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