Thursday, July 7, 2016

John’s Wedding, and Mayhem in Ketchikan

The big event while we were home in May was our son John’s wedding.  Here’s the handsome couple below.  Aren’t they dashing?  That’s Aaron on the left, and John on the right.  It was a spectacular event and everyone had a great time.  Congratulations John and Aaron!!  

John and Aaron

A day or two later I was talking to a friend who was in Ketchikan and he told me that one of the big cruise ships had just smashed into a pier right in front of where our boat was tied up.  Our boat was fine, but it was quite the event with a lot of repercussions.

Below is a chart segment showing where everything is.  Tanglewood was tied up in the Casey Moran basin where shown.  Cruise Ship Berth 3 forms the outer barrier for the Casey Moran Basin, and is 100% over water as is all of Ketchikan’s waterfront.

Carey Moran Basin and Berth 3

On the outside of  berth 3 there are “dolphins” which are a collection of steel pilings with big platforms on the top, and bumpers that the cruise ships dock up against.  Several of the dolphins are free standing with a catwalk connecting them.  Then there is a large floating dock the size of a barge that’s used to access the docked ship.

On the inside of berth 3 are a series of smaller steel pilings and a length of floating dock where larger commercial boats tie up.  At the time of the “incident”, the Safari Quest (one of the Un-cruise tour boats) was on the commercial float approximately where shown, right across from the point of impact.

Here’s a video that I’m 99% sure was shot by a passenger on the Safari Quest.  Listening to the chatter in the background, it’s pretty clear that initially they just think they are filming a routine docking.  Then comes the best line in the whole video; “why is everybody running?”  A few seconds later it becomes obvious as the ship smashes into the dolphins.  You can then see the Safari Quest crew scrambling around because their dock lines parted, along with those of a couple of other boats along that dock.  And all this is about 150’ from where out boat sits.  Another boat, Wild Blue, was docked somewhere over near us and saw the whole thing.  Here’s a great account in his blog.

It was windy in Ketchikan that day, with gusts up to 40 kts.  It’s unclear exactly what lead up to the cruise ship coming in so fast, but the wind was surely a factor.  What is clear is that the ship’s thrusters were working fine.  The prop wash is clearly visible in the video, and they were running constantly.  Eventually there will be an NTSB report which should make for good reading.

We arrived back in Ketchikan just a couple of days after this, and that afternoon a large work barge came in and tied up to the berth – clearly there to conduct repairs.  The next day I got a call from the harbor master requesting that we move to a different location.  The long dock on the inside of berth 3 had been rendered unusable, so they had lost several hundred feet of dock space.  And, with the loss of berth 3,  the endless stream of cruise ships scheduled for berth 3 would have to anchor and shuttle passengers in, creating a new demand for dock space.  The float we were on was being re-purposed for shuttle landings, and they needed our spot.

While I had the harbor master on the phone, I asked him about the damage.  The main pilings that make up the dolphins and primary supports for the barge dock are 1” thick steel rolled into 4 foot diameter tubes.  They are not light weight.  4 or 5 of these make up each dolphin, and they are installed at varying angles to take the loads of docking.  The water is 100’, and the pilings are 200’ long, with 50’ above the water line, and 50’ sunk into the bottom and bed rock.  The tide in Ketchikan, by the way, is about 18'.

Docking "dolphin"

The impact did not damage the pilings.  That’s the good news.  However they deflected 18” down at the sea bottom.  I guess they could tell by the mud foot print.  And the worst part is that all the welds that tie the pilings to the platform cracked, compromising the integrity of the whole structure.  Plus there was other more visible damage like one of the cat walks that had been torn free and was hanging down in the water.  In the photo below, I've circled one of the joints that broke.  It may be a bit hard to see in the picture, but there was a clear tear in the metal.

Torn weld joint

The big work barge that had docked the day before began repair work right away.  Their quick arrival was quite fortuitous.  Apparently they were anchored in a nearby bay sitting idle waiting for a big job starting in July, so were able to come right over and get started.  Some of the work was obvious, but the harbor master told me they still needed to x-ray all the welds to find the less obvious damage.

Men at work

Here’s the cat walk being craned out of the water

Lifting cat walk out of the water

Missing deck plates on cat walk.

We left the next day, so didn't see any more of the repair work, but the plan was to have everything repaired by July 5th, so it should be all fixed now.

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