Odyssey runs aground on Leo Reef; about 80 passengers evacuated
By JULIA VOURI
Journal of the San Juans Correspondent
July 16, 2009 · Updated 8:24 AM
The veteran excursion and whale-watch vessel Odyssey ran aground on Leo Reef Rocks off Lopez Island Wednesday, necessitating evacuation of nearly 80 passengers by other whale-watch charter boats and the United States Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard reported that the vessel was floated off about 8:30 p.m. and returned to Friday Harbor. No injuries were reported, and there was no leakage from the vessel’s diesel tanks.
The 65-foot, twin-engine Odyssey, operated by San Juan Excursions in Friday Harbor, struck the rocks at 5 p.m. The captain radioed the Coast Guard to report the mishap, but declined assistance. However, about a half-hour later the captain radioed the Coast Guard again to report that his vessel was taking on about a gallon of water a minute.
When asked if he required commercial assistance, the captain once more declined help, reporting that his bilge pumps were effectively managing the leakage.
“The plan is to re-float,” the captain said, implying that he intended to await flood tide, which he hoped would shake the boat from the rocks.
Leo Reef and its string of rocks is one of 10 frequently hit rocks or reefs in the San Juans, according to a handout distributed by the Port of Friday Harbor and the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee.
At 5:40 p.m., the Coast Guard dispatcher in Port Angeles declared a “no wake zone” in the waters surrounding the vessel. Shortly thereafter, several other whale-watch boats from Friday Harbor rallied to offload the passengers, said Colleen Johanson, co-owner of San Juan Safaris.
"We’re all here to lend a hand to one another," she said.
The vessels included the Western Prince I, Explorer II and the Sea Lion. The Coast Guard cutter Swordfish and Soundwatch also took aboard a few passengers, who were shuttled from the Odyssey to the rescue vessels by the Explorer II, a shallow draft Zodiac.
The Odyssey is licensed to carry up to 97 passengers, but limits its tour to 80.