Historic tug from WWII Pearl Harbor days sinks in Juneau, but you can help raise it

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The 107-foot tug Tagish sank at a Juneau dock on Thursday. The Tagish was built in 1943 by Everett Marine Ways Inc., in Everett, Wash. for the U.S. Navy, where it was known as YTB290, the Canocan.

It was built as a fireboat replacement for the Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, during World War II. The tug was sold in 1959 to Pacific Tow Boat Co. and renamed the Sea King. Ten years later, that company was sold and came under the Foss Maritime company.

In 1976, Foss renamed the tug the Iver Foss, but then sold the aging boat to Don Etheridge of Juneau in 1978; he renamed it the Tagish. For the past 25 years Etheridge has been maintaining and restoring the historic vessel, a survivor of World War II.

Tom Brice, a friend of Etheridge’s, has set up a GoFundMe fundraising page to assist with the raising of the vessel. You can donate to that effort, which has raised over $25,000 in three days, at this link.

Tagish Marine, LLC, which is the corporate owner of the vessel, believes that a 10-inch water line associated with the fire boat plumbing may have frozen and then broke. The vessel had been checked the prior evening and nothing was found amiss, and the bilges were empty, Etheridge said. Tagish Marine wrote:

“During the early morning hours of 12/29/22 the MV Tagish sunk at the National Guard Dock. The sinking was discovered at approximately 8:30 AM by an employee of the harbor department. The vessel is owned by Tagish Marine LLC. Don Etheridge responded to the scene and began coordinating with response agencies and local salvage companies.

“Boom and absorbent materials were deployed to contain approximately 60 to 80 gallons of fuel.

“Melino’s Marine was hired to bring in a diver and plug the tank vents to prevent any further fuel leaking.

“All options for salvage are on the table and currently being explored with local contractors.

“With the plugging of the tank vent, any environmental risk has been contained.

“Due to the size and weight of the vessel, the salvage operation will take extremely large equipment and careful planning.

“This incident is a tremendous loss. We appreciate the outreach and support from the community Thank you all for your patience and understanding while we navigate this complex process.”

Must Read Alaska readers may recall that Don Etheridge ran for Senate for Juneau as an unaffiliated candidate in 2018, but lost to Jesse Kiehl, a Democrat. Read this column by Art Chance from May, 2018:

17 COMMENTS

  1. Tagish marine’s problem. They need to pay for it. The tug should have been pulled out of the water before it got this far.

    • Curious about something:

      Tagish is not denying responsibility and is acting in a responsible manner to deal with the issue.

      To the best of my knowledge public funds have not been asked for or received.

      If private entities chose to help in this activity, why would you care?

  2. It’s a nearly annual occurrence here. Tugs sink and become a navigation issue.

    It’s like termination dust. An annual rite of Juneau passage.

    At least this one was docked and under responsible ownership.

    • Termination dust? You mean snow? First snow? Dusting on the peaks? What’s with the termination dust thing? Sounds retarded..

  3. If this vessel is like others that sit tied to a dock for years upon years any person that boats would see it needs to be felt with before the environmental damage occurs. Old vessels like this are made of wood and leak. I don’t know if it’s wood but the tax payer should not have to bale out another business. I don’t care if you or anybody wants to help financially but it should not have gotten this far.

  4. The state of Alaska a few years ago pre covid wrote laws to criminalize those who abandon sunk and other vessels where they should not be. The goal was to further economically harm those tenuously in or near the maritime industries. Everyone loves “the seas” until they have one, a historic wreck of a ship. They have to do something in Juneau besides drink and sit around. So, someone brought up fining decrepitude ships almost at sea in Homer. The democratic Karens became gently “concerned” which usually means prison for everyone else. The last holder “is financially responsible” to everyone else in the world. Anyway a draconian and disgusting statute it is. Not worth the puke it was written in. He’s feeling the “peench” in local Juneau. The swishy Juneauites thought their intended victims would be in Bristol Bay. But, this one was right there in Juneau. Ergo, the sweet, sweet go fund me rather than invoking their unstomachable draconian “law” in their own bailiwick first!

  5. Otherwise known as feedback. Or grunting. It’s not allowed to speak at the Anchorage Assembly chambers. Feedback is (sometimes) a thing in the republic. Karens don’t “like” feedback of any type aka two-way communication, aka a part of Public Relations 101 and Marketing 101.

  6. Merely being willing to ga down to Juneau to dream up rotten enactments, refuse to assemble to speedily work each day to get the budget balanced and secure the people’s rights for a jig and paycheck remember it’s not all compliments and money.

  7. A 25-year boat-restoration project apparently never insured against sinking, sinks for an avoidable, predictable, detectable reason.
    .
    And Captain Ahab wants the public to bail him out?
    .
    A tale of epic chutzpah or more to this maritime mystery than meets the eye…
    .
    What say ye, mateys?

  8. Oh Alaskans carry lots of burdens. They go down to Juneau to figure out other new impossible burdens to put on their deplorable neighbors. Tell It like it is. Then, we’re suppose think high thoughts about the burden makers. Enjoy your jigs.

  9. All I can say is that I will give a very wide berth to anything and anyone that Tom Brice is involved with…

    • Bob, I have known Tom Brice for decades and worked for his Uncle. Based upon my experience with Tom and Brice Construction I would disagree wholeheartedly with your assessment above. Tom is a good man.

      Furthermore, Don Etheridge is A- OK too, this opinion comes from knowing Don for some 50 years.

  10. This project is interesting in that moorage for such a vessel would likely have bankrupted the owners without some subsidy for those expenses. Without such a subsidy it’s unlikely the owner would have still been involved.
    As far as the sinking goes, boats spring leaks often and with nobody on board the result is it goes to the bottom. A bilge alarm alert to owner’s phone could have saved this sinking, too. Risk/reward didn’t pan out for this owner. Tough noogies to this owner.

  11. It would be a shame to lose such a piece of maritime history, especially since efforts were being made to restore it. Accidents like this happen to the best of vessels, despite their age, and it wasn’t exactly abandoned to rot by an uncaring out of state owner. Wish them the best in recovery and restoration of this vessel that has served so well.

  12. why not? We lose every other history in AK. We “lost”: Jessie Lee Home and Unga and all our other museums and lost everything else in flood, plumbing failures and sent our historical detritus away to Washinton state or San Francisco. Etc. Make Unga Great Again!!!

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