Juneau’s first winter storm brought down trees, knocked out power and capsized boats, and it’s barely November.
“We had two that completely sunk. We had eight to ten that we had to call the owners and they were able to respond in time to keep them from sinking,” said City and Borough of Juneau harbormaster Matt Creswell in a phone interview. “One was at Harris Harbor and one was at intermediate vessel float.”
It’s not uncommon for boats to capsize alongside the pier in the winter, Creswell said, weighed down by ice and snow.
“We had four inches of rain or whatever. And then it turned immediately to snow, super-heavy wet snow. And downtown, there was half an inch of ice on top of that,” Creswell said. “It was a triple whammy of conditions that made everything super heavy. Once she starts going, she only has to get low enough that water starts to come in.”
Both boats have since been refloated, and are either hauled out or scheduled to be so.
“One has been refloated and been hauled out of the harbor. The other has been refloated and will be towed out tomorrow. All pollution threats have been mitigated,” Creswell said. “Soon as we know they were sunk, we got our crew down there with the oil boom. The state and the Coast Guard came and offered some assistance.”
But there’s long months of winter ahead. Boats can collect ice and snow if they’re not swept clear, and the cold is hard on through-hull fittings, which can spring leaks and sink a vessel without warning, Creswell said. A boat can accumulate enough ice and snow to sink in a matter of hours, as happened in this past storm, Creswell said.
“If they’ve got a boat, they need to have a plan in place at all times to check on that boat. People need to have it winterized,” Creswell said. “If the weather gets right, it can happen in a matter of hours. You get the right amount of added water weight, whether it be snow or rain, and add a little wind, it can happen real quick.”
Full steam ahead
Cruelest cold is no impediment to Docks and Harbors’ plans for its facilities, though, including Aurora Harbor, recently cleared of pilings and floats for refitting.
“It is now complete. It is a totally open harbor basin now. We just got a little more to haul off,” Creswell said. “That was quite the success story. We were able to do that all in-house and that was quite extraordinary.”
Its neighbor, Harris Harbor, is also getting a little tender loving care, as contractors retained by the Army Corps of Engineers begin work on the harbor basin.
“They’ll begin next week for Harris Harbor,” Creswell said. “They got in there and did their pre-dredge surveys and they just gotta get their equipment in there and start dredging.”
Construction on Don D. Statter Harbor’s upgraded facilities also continues on schedule, Creswell said, working on wrapping up a seawall before moving on to pilings and floats after the new year.
“Statter’s going well, it’s on schedule,” Creswell said. “They started on seawall. Should be wrapping that up in the next few weeks.”
The harbors are still a bit busy with early-winter traffic as Juneau residents seek landbound prey like deer, Creswell said.
“It’s still a little busy through December because it’s hunting season,” Creswell said. “We make a conscious effort to get these launch ramps cleared pretty quickly.”
A new resident of the depths
The derelict tug Lumberman will also hopefully be disposed of shortly, scuttled offshore in deep water, Creswell said.
“We’re working a plan to get it towed out and scuttled hopefully this month,” Creswell said. “We have our contractor coming in next week to make it ready for scuttling. It’s a matter of weather windows. The cleaning of the Lumberman is done.”
With the Lumberman to be scuttled either late in 2020 or early in 2021 depending on the weather and other factors, Creswell said, the years-long saga of the Lumberman will come to an end at the bottom of the Gulf of Alaska.
Creswell had advice for patrons of Juneau’s docks to avoid a similar fate.
“Be careful walking the docks,” Creswell said. “Wear a life jacket.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or email@example.com.