Abandoned tugboat stuck in middle of Gastineau Channel

A tugboat has been stuck on a sandbar since May 5th in the Gastineau Channel, between Alaska and the Douglas Islands, and has no place to go, according to City and Borough of Juneau Docks and Harbours Port Director Carl Uchytil.

The removal of the 107ft, 1941-built, Lumbermann was a state — not city — matter, said Uchytil, with any possible removal falling under the jurisdiction of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining, Land and Water due to the vessel’s location. “Right now, as it stands, (the city) would have no authority to impound the vessel based on legal standing and legal precedent,” Uchytil said.

Lumberman’s owner, was named as Brenden Mattson, but harbourmaster Dave Borg said he did not have contact details for Mattson.

A letter from Docks & Harbours dated September 6th 2017 requested that Mattson move the Lumberman from near Aurora Harbour.

US Coast Guard Lt Kristen Zelman said the USCG had been in contact with the state and city on what to do with the vessel, but there had not yet been an agreement on a timeline for when, legally, it could be towed away.

The USCG boarded the vessel in January and found oily waste and other hazardous materials on the boat, Zelman said. Those materials were removed. Uchytil said that people had been living on the tug when the boat was anchored outside Aurora Harbour. However, on the night of December 5th, 2017, a 10ft skiff carrying five people capsized while it was on its way out to either the Lumberman or Ellen C.

Uchytil said he didn’t want to speculate for which vessel the boat was headed. When the skiff capsized, five people went into Gastineau Channel. The USCG rescued three of them, but two — 50-year-old James Cole and 48-year-old Sheridan “Scott” Stringer — have still not been found. Uchytil said that to his knowledge, nobody was living on the vessel now.

Uchytil said that if the vessel kept drifting it could end up becoming the USCG’s responsibility instead of DNR’s. The USCG could then declare the vessel a hazard if it obstructed traffic, and could dispose of it. “The potential for her to drift and be a navigational hazard is real,” Uchytil said