Grounded Long Island Tour Boat Refloated

NEW YORK–The Nautical Empress, a 119-foot Long Island, N.Y. tour vessel successfully refloated on a flooding tide at 5 a.m. today after it ran aground in Sea Dog Creek, directly north of Point Lookout, 11 p.m. Friday. There were no reports of injuries to the crew or to the 103 passengers, who were evacuated to another tour vessel soon after grounding. The vessel’s hull remained intact, and there have been no reports of pollution.

The Nautical Empress ran aground in thick mud near buoy seven in Sea Dog Creek, west of the Loop Bridge, where depths are reported to average six feet.

Hempstead Bay Constables notified Coast Guard Station Jones Beach at 11 p.m. Station Jones Beach immediately launched a 25-foot rescue boat crew who were on scene within 30 minutes. Two Coast Guard boarding team members, Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Benware from Lowell, VT, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Carlos Martinez from Brownville, TX transferred to the tour vessel to help calm the passengers. A Nassau County Marine Police vessel also arrived on scene, but was unable to free the Nautical Empress from the mud.

Lt. Bill Grossman, a marine investigator and inspector from Coast Guard Marine Safety Field Office in Coram, N.Y., arrived on scene at 1:30 a.m. to determine the safety of the vessels hull and stability, and to conduct routine drug and alcohol screenings of the tour vessel’s crew. Screenings were negative and no damage was found.

Grossman coordinated with the master to bring the Miss Freeport V, a 58-foot tour vessel from the R&S Nautical Charters Company, alongside the Nautical Empress at 2 a.m. and ensured that passengers could safely be transferred off of the grounded vessel. Both vessels’ crews safely evacuated all 103 passengers to the Miss Freeport V by 2:30 a.m. using each vessel’s cargo doors. The Nautical Empress floated free of the muddy bottom at approximately 5 a.m. during the flooding tide.

Commercial divers completed an underwater hull examination at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and reported that the Nautical Empress suffered no apparent hull damage. The Coast Guard has authorized the Nautical Empress to continue normal operations.

The sea state at the time of the grounding was 1-2 foot seas, with 10 miles visibility. Low tide was reported at 1 a.m.

“We don’t yet know for sure why the Nautical Empress ran aground, but the safety of crew and passengers is the Coast Guard’s top priority and thankfully all crewmembers and 103 concerned passengers were safely returned to shore in the dark of the night with no reports of injuries,” said Lt. cmdr. Kevin Oditt, Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound officer in charge of marine inspections. “They will definitely have a unique story to tell their grandkids, certainly one that has a happy ending.”

Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound issued a notice to mariners alerting mariners and boaters that the navigational aid in Sea Dog Creek may not be on station. The Coast Guard is continuing its investigation.

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