A yacht that ran aground in Sitka three weeks ago remains on the rocks, but is completely defueled and may be salvaged next week.
The Alaskan Dream struck a rock in Sitka Sound during high tide on October 7th. The vessel was carrying 3,000 gallons of diesel aboard. The fuel tanks were not damaged in the grounding. An estimated 5-15 gallons spilled from another source during the collision.
In the days following, Hanson Maritime Company removed all diesel, drained the lube oil reservoirs and engines, and removed all batteries and potential sources of pollution.
All that remains is the vessel, a 74-foot pleasure craft homeported in Sitka and owned by Gregory Stevenson. The hull, made of fiberglass-over-wood, has a big hole. The keel pushed through upon impact.
Stevenson remembers the day the collision happened, which saw blue skies and calm waters.
“Not a ripple in the water and my wife and I were up in the command bridge just chatting away and I wasn’t paying attention to my instruments. That rock was about five feet underwater and I draft six feet, so…stupidity on my part, you know?,” Stevenson said. “Whacked that rock and stayed right where I hit it.”
He adds the Alaskan Dream was equipped with forward-seeking sonar, but the alarms indicating the approaching rock were not turned on.
The area has grounded boaters before. Given the danger it poses, Stevenson believes it should be marked. “I don’t know why it isn’t marked by the Coast Guard. Just a little bit further down, there’s a big green buoy on some shoal that’s right there,” he said. “I can’t believe that there would be a rock right out there in the middle of the channel right there and not have a buoy on it.”
Since the vessel is on state land, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is overseeing the salvage. Stevenson has hired Hanson Maritime Company to assist with that operation. President Lee Hanson says he plans to use lift bags and patching to reduce the size of the hole before attempting to float the Alaskan Dream.
The boat is Stevenson’s home. The former Eagle River resident sold everything to live aboard the Alaskan Dream with his family as an alternative to housing on land.
“Homes down here are very expensive. We didn’t want to jump into another 30 year mortgage. So that’s our first option is to go with the yacht and if for some reason it gets off the rock and goes straight to the bottom, then we use Plan 2. We’re not going to leave Sitka. We love it down here. This was our dream to move down here. So this is where we are,” Stevenson said.
With big tides rolling in, he’ll attempt the salvage operation between November 1st and 4th. If the Alaskan Dream floats, Stevenson will take the boat to Halibut Point Marina for further repairs. He faces ongoing discrepancies with the insurance company and is paying out of pocket for now.