Tour vessel sinks in Lake Union



Tour vessel sinks in Lake Union
By Caitlin Cleary
Seattle Times staff reporter

None of the 11 passengers on the "Ride the Ducks of Seattle"
amphibious boat tour was injured Saturday when it began taking on
water in Lake Union.
None of them even got wet, said Lt. Cmdr. Tom Miller, chief domestic-
vessels inspector of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office. But the
boat later sank.
As a precaution, the Coast Guard shut down all Ride the Ducks water
tours until an investigation is complete.
"The company will first have to satisfy us that repairs have been
made or steps taken," Miller said.
The Coast Guard was waiting to inspect the 38-foot, World War II-era
boat-on-wheels, which was stuck in the muddy bottom of the lake until
it was raised last night. A salvage crew tried to bring it up
Saturday night but ran into some trouble, Miller said.
At about 3 p.m. Saturday, an alarm alerted the boat's master that the
craft was taking on water. The master decided to ground the vessel by
taking it in close to shore, on the east side of the lake, said Coast
Guard spokesman Lt. Richard Howes.
All the passengers disembarked safely.
But when the boat was being towed in for repairs, it sank in about 27
feet of water.
The boats are surplused and restored Army landing craft called DUKWs,
developed to carry troops and cargo from ships onto beaches.
The "ducks" generally have three axles and six wheels and can carry
up to 36 people. Many of these boats are in service elsewhere in the
county for sightseeing tours.
The Seattle vessels begin and end their 90-minute tour of the city
near Seattle Center and include a 30-minute excursion around the
north end of Lake Union.
The Coast Guard has secured all four Ride the Ducks boats ? two are
Coast Guard-certified, operating passenger vessels; two more are
being warehoused ? while maintenance records and equipment are
checked out, Miller said.
According to the Coast Guard, this is the area's first incident of an
amphibious vessel sinking.
The owner of Ride the Ducks of Seattle could not be reached for
comment yesterday.
Miller is pleased with how the boat's master dealt with a situation
that could have been much more dire. Thirteen people died in 1999
after an amphibious tourist boat in Hot Springs, Ark., took on water
and sank in minutes.
In Ride the Ducks' case, "they played it very much on the safe side,"
Miller said. "We're pleased about that. No one was hurt."
It was after the fatal sinking in Arkansas that the Coast Guard
stepped up its annual inspections of Seattle's duck boats, requiring
more frequent and detailed on-site inspections, Miller said.

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