Cruise West Begins Repairs to Spirit of Nantucket

November 16, 2007

Spirit of Nantucket Floats Again

Spirit of Nantucket Remains Grounded After Incident

Spirit of Nantucket Runs Aground; Passengers Evacuated

Update: A spokeswoman for Cruise West tells us that a tentative date of November 29 has been set for the completion of repairs to Spirit of Nantucket -- and that "all is looking good."

November 13 -- Cruise West's Spirit of Nantucket, which was intentionally run aground last week after it struck an object near Virginia Beach and began taking on water, is awaiting repairs at Colonna's Shipyard in Norfolk. All 66 passengers and crew were evacuated safely with no injuries; 29 of the 31 passengers opted to continue their tour by motorcoach.

Luckily for Cruise West, this was the last cruise of the season for the ship, so there are no cancellations to contend with due to the accident. And because the next season, in Alaska, doesn't begin until next May 2008 (during the hiatus, the ship will be renamed Spirit of Glacier Bay and relocated to Seattle), the line has a bit of wiggle room in scheduling and carrying out the necessary fixes.

Indeed, the repair timeline is still being determined, according to a spokesman for the line -- but the Alaska season is expected to sail as scheduled.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, a survey team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the waterway, used sonar to locate the debris the ship collided with: a whale-shaped bundle of wood.

At this point, there's no clear answer as to what exactly it is and how it got there, though there are a few theories. Tom Ruszala, director of nautical operations for Cruise West, told the paper that "it looks like a section of an old, very old, blockade chain that was used to prevent entry of vessels into rivers or bays." Meanwhile, Bob Crofton, the president of the company hired to raise the debris from the water, said (we assume in jest): "I think it was built by aliens."

The unusual entity is now resting on a barge. The corps estimates that the final cost for locating and removing the mass could total as much as $50,000 -- and whoever is responsible for dropping it in the channel (if that's how it got there) could foot that bill.

We'll keep you posted.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor