How the Aries tug crew abandoned ship

In a news story last week, I wrote about a crew of four that abandoned their sinking tug in survival suits in the Bering Sea and mustered on the deck barge they had been towing. Before leaving the tug, the skipper called the Coast Guard in Kodiak, which dispatched a cutter, an airplane and a helicopter to respond.

In the article, I originally said the crew swam from the tug to the barge, from which they were rescued.

Wrong. The crew didn’t swim, the captain maneuvered the tug next to the barge and they climbed across.

After reading my account of their story, Doug Pine, the captain of the Aries, and his crew sent me an email asking, “How [did]you reach your opinion that we swam to the barge? Did it just seem like something exciting to add to the story?”


Frankly, it was an assumption, and shame on me for assuming anything.

Here’s Pine’s description of what happened:

“We decided that the barge was a much safer place to be than in the liferaft, so I maneuvered the tug port side to the port side of the barge. My mate (an experienced tugboat captain) Drew Williams got over to the barge and helped the other crewmembers, engineer Scott Wilson and AB ‘She-ro’ Jasmine Abovian to the barge. I thought I was going to have to jump in the water and swim for the pigeonholes but the boat bumped up one last time to the barge just long enough for me to grab a hatch cover and Drew and Scott hauled me aboard.”

In Alaska newspaper reports, the barge was described as “anchored” while the crew waited for rescue. Turns out that the anchor was the sunken tug.

“We left the wire connected because frankly we didn’t ever consider anything else. Given the water depth of approximately 250 feet, the tug made an excellent anchor for the barge, and once the barge fetched up she rode very nicely without any drift.”

Capt. Pine also says he’s writing an account of the accident and will send it our way when it’s ready.

We look forward to receiving it. Thanks captain for clearing things up!

About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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