Ferryboat Crashes into Two Harbors Pier; Fuel, Boater Access a Problem

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Posted by on May 17, 2005 at 08:25:27:

AVALON - Santa Catalina Island’s Two Harbors pier sustained major damage May 9 when one of Catalina Cruises’ cross-channel ferryboats crashed into it at about 11:30 a.m.

As a result of the accident, neither fuel nor water was immediately available for Two Harbors boaters except for onshore.

Late reports indicate pier inspectors feel they may have the pier in useable order by Memorial Day weekend. Hopefully, this will include fuel and water service, Doug Oudin, harbor master, said.

Additionally, officials are trying to decide what to do about getting boaters ashore.

Catalina Countess, which was on its scheduled camp run into the Isthmus, was carrying about 220 school-age children at the time of the accident. The children were bound for Camp Cherry Valley and the Mountain and Sea Camp at Emerald Cove.

There were no injuries onshore and no significant injuries on Countess.

The 127-foot vessel hit the offshore dock first. It splintered several posts, then impacted the end of the pier, snapping pilings, buckling railings, and crushing the understructure for 20 feet.

Planks were damaged for about one third of the way down the pier. At the Visitors’ Services office, 160 feet away from the impact, a pier railing was forced through a window.

Pilings were moved along the length of the pier, and the harbor office was shifted by at least a foot.

“It did major damage,” Isthmus Harbormaster Doug Oudin said.

Cause Not Yet Determined

The Coast Guard was notified immediately, and agency personnel responded from the mainland. Until their initial investigation was complete, the vessel was placed on a mooring, and the passengers and crew had to stay onboard.

The cause of the accident has not been determined; however, reports from witnesses indicate that Countess was arriving at the dock at a high rate of speed.

According to an official release from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Avalon Station, the captain reported that he put both engines in reverse when he approached the dock, but one of the engines failed to engage, swinging the vessel into the pier.

Oudin said that staff from Catalina Cruises had been very responsive. “They’re very concerned about the incident,” he said. “Their mechanics are doing a complete inspection of the boat.”

Calls to Catalina Cruises had not been returned at The Log’s press time.

Immediately after the impact, the Isthmus Pier was closed, with a chain-link fence stretched across the land side and the ramps lifted on the ocean side.

“It’s currently closed as a safety precaution,” Oudin said. “We should know soon if there’s any chance of it reopening.”

Engineers were brought in two days after the accident to assess the stability of the pier, but Oudin said Two Harbors personnel were already examining alternatives.

“We’re going to have challenges,” he said. “In the short term, we have no pier.”

Currently, arrangements have been made for cross-channel carriers to dock at the USC Marine Science Center dock. “They’re cooperating 100 percent,” Oudin said.

Since the accident, Isthmus Harbor Patrol personnel have been wading into the shallows, climbing into a dinghy, and using that to get to their patrol boats.

If engineers determine that the structural stability of the pier has been compromised, and it has to remain closed, one possibility is a floating-dock system utilizing PVC piping, wooden planking, and handrails.

The floating docks could provide access to the shore for both dinghy users and shoreboat passengers.

“We’re doing everything we can to enact emergency measures and do business as usual,” Oudin said, noting that the water issue should be relatively easy to rectify.

Providing fuel, however, may be much more challenging.

“It is a possibility that there won’t be marine fuel this summer,” he said.

Before Monday’s accident, the Isthmus Pier had been scheduled for a major renovation in November. “It would have been open all summer,” Oudin said.

Although the pier was old, the harbormaster said the way it withstood the crash was a testament to its stability.

“The fact that it is still standing and intact after that impact shows that the pier was solid,” he said.

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