Sunday Sinking

by kfrego

My phone rang on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Beulah,ND. Kenny Pruitt, the equipment superintendent for Gates and Fox, had just received a call from our security guard at the Lake Sakakawea tunnel project. The security guard was concerned about our tugboat tied up at the floating dock on the job. He stated the tugboat appeared to be lower in the water than it was when he observed it earlier. Kenny asked me to ride out to the job with him to inspect the tugboat.

The security guard was right to be concerned. We were a hundred yards away from the dock when it was apparent our tug boat was in trouble. The floating dock was flipped in the air on a 45 degree angle. We couldn’t see the tugboat. When we got close to the dock we could see the two inch diameter nylon lines tied to the tugboat. They were stretched very very tight. The weight of the submerged tugboat suspended on the nylon lines was what tipped the dock at forty five degrees. We could see the silhouette of the submerged tugboat reflecting up from the lake. The situation was dangerous because if something shifted the dock could be flipped completely over as the submerged tugboat sank to the bottom. There were no major fuel or oil leaks contaminating the lake. We spent a while discussing the best way to recover the submerged tugboat. The damage was all ready done and we agreed to leave it alone until Monday morning when we had the manpower available to get the job done. Our biggest concern was the tugboat might break away from the dock and sink into the silty lake bottom.

My off shore crew went to work with our sixteen foot aluminum work boat Monday morning. The sixteen foot boat then returned to shore as a work platform for the crew raising the tugboat. We had a 100 ton tracked crane on site. It was moved to where it could reach the tugboat and dock. The crew was able to get slings under the tugboat to allow lifting with the crane. It was a slow process. As the crane lifted the tugboat the dock settled back into place. The tugboat was lifted just high enough to allow the crew to pump the water out of it. The crane could easily handle the tugboat, but not when it was full of water. The tugboat was sitting high and dry on wooden dunnage by lunch time. The afternoon was spent changing out lubricants and fuel. A new seal was ordered for the leaking propeller drive shaft. The tugboat was in the water and waiting for the day shift crew on Tuesday morning.

The sinking of the tug boat was bad…………..and so was the four dollar drive shaft seal that leaked.

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