Last week, U.S. Coast Guard aircrews conducted a successful rescue operation in Columbia Bay in Southeast Alaska's Columbia Glacier, after a tour boat ran aground on a shoal. The stranded vessel, Lu-Lu Belle, was high and dry, allowing all 19 passengers and crew to safely disembark onto solid ground for an aerial evacuation.

Around 4:30 pm, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage received VHF radio communication from the ferry Aurora, which was in contact with the distressed Lu-Lu Belle. Using the Aurora as a relay, watch standers at Sector Anchorage learned of the situation. In response, the Coast Guard dispatched two helicopters and a response boat to assist the stranded vessel.

Fortunately, during low tide, there was sufficient space on a headland for the helicopter aircrews to land and rescue all passengers and crew, except for the captain, who remained aboard the vessel overnight. The rescue was successfully completed by 9:25 pm.

Cmdr. Scott Farr, the search and rescue coordinator for Sector Anchorage, commended the watch standers and response crews.

“The safe and effective rescue of every passenger on the Lu-Lu Belle is a testament to the attentiveness of our watch standers and readiness of our response crews from all of our units,” Farr said in a statement describing the situation. He also expressed gratitude to the crew of the Aurora and the City of Valdez Fire Department, building maintenance, and harbor staff, whose efforts were vital to the operation's success, he said. 

The Lu-Lu Belle's captain remained aboard the boat and awaited the return of high tide, which occurs within a tidal range of 14' to 20' in Valdez. The following day, the vessel was refloated. The Coast Guard is currently investigating the cause of the incident. 

Lu-Lu Belle is a classic 75' tour boat that has been offering tours of the bay since 1979.