Routine ferry run turns into emergency rescue mission

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

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GUEMES ISLAND, Wash. - Passengers on a Victoria Clipper were suddenly caught up in an emergency rescue mission near Guemes Island.

A man aboard a 59-foot vessel made a mayday call last night after he started taking on water in the engine room.

He abandoned the boat and safely jumped into an emergency dinghy.

"We got a distress call from a vessel that was out in the Strait," said Michelle Callihan, who works on the Victoria Clipper III.

The ferry was on a routine run from Friday Harbor to Seattle with 101 passengers on board.
The crew immediately set a course for the sinking boat.

"We went out there and got him to the Victoria Clipper, and once the Coast Guard arrived, we transferred him onto their vessel," said Callihan.

Clipper employees say their ferries are often one of only a handful of vessels on the remote waterway. The crews have responded to calls about sinking sailboats and ship fires in the past.

"We get called out probably a few times a year by the Coast Guard," said Clipper Navigation Inc.'s CEO, Darrell Bryan.

Within hours, the boat was under water. It was carrying 3,000 gallons of fuel and a small sheen appeared on the water's surface.

A Coast Guard crew flew over the scene Thursday morning. The sheen — and pollution threat — was gone.

The incident is under investigation.

Divers with a salvage company will rig the vessel and drag it up so it can be hauled away for inspection.