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: