Tugboat sinks in Gastineau Channel

The top of the Challenger still protrudes above the water (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)
The top of the Challenger still protrudes above the water (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Update | Sep. 13, 12:09 p.m.

The Coast Guard response team applied boom to the water on Sunday to contain any fuel leaking from the sunken tugboat. A minimal amount of fluid was found to be on board.  The Coast Guard will be working throughout the week to coordinate a salvage operation.

The Challenger was built in 1944 for the U.S. Army and later used as a “bunk and breakfast” in Seattle. Around 2002, the tugboat made its voyage to Juneau and was eventually sold to local artist R.D. Robinson.

Original story: 

A tugboat, known as Challenger, sank near Aurora Harbor around 3 p.m. on Saturday. Coast Guard Petty Officer Geno Kludt said the 96-foot wooden vessel was engulfed by water in about fifteen minutes.

No one was suspected to be on board.

“Basically, it’s one of those fixer upper type boats that’s been anchored up in Gastineau Channel. It just finally took on enough water and sank,” he said.

Kludt warned boaters to watch out for debris and the vessel’s mast sticking up. He said there are plans to assess the damage but raising it might be complicated.

“It’s ultimately the owners responsibility to coordinate the salvage efforts,” he said. “However, if he’s not able to take action on it, that’s when the Coast Guard may have to help with the salvage efforts to raise the vessel.”

There’s no word on when that might take place. For now, Kludt said boaters should proceed with caution through the site.