Grounded barge at Quadra Island is floating again

The massive barge that ran aground on Quadra Island on the night of Nov. 9 has been lifted off the rocks and refloated.

Catherine Smith, whose house was closest to the marooned barge, said she was awakened at 3:30 a.m. Friday by bright lights and barges. “And at 6:30 a.m., they lifted the Nana Provider off the rocks and it went across to the Campbell River side and is probably on its way to Duncan Bay for repairs.”

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The salvage operation was quiet and efficient, said Smith. “And the whales and I have our backyard back.”

Transport Canada, which oversaw the salvage operation, confirmed the barge is secured in Duncan Bay, where it will undergo further assessment and repair.

The barge ran aground north of the community of Cape Mudge.

The Nana Provider was being pulled by a tugboat, heading to Alaska, when it hit rocks and damaged its hull. The six people on the tugboat were uninjured.

There were three loaded rail cars on board the barge — one contained compressed carbon dioxide, while the other two contained a corrosion inhibitor. All other rail cars and containers were empty, as was the hull.

Canadian Coast Guard crews were on the water during the salvage operation to monitor and protect the public, salvage crews and the environment.

The coast guard’s marine communications and traffic services monitored boat traffic and advised other vessels while the barge was moved to safe harbour in Campbell River, said a statement from the coast guard.

No marine pollution was observed during the operation. The coast guard’s environmental response team will continue to monitor marine pollution while repairs to the barge are underway.

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Earlier story:

From the kitchen window of the waterfront home where she was housesitting, Sarah Boyes said she could see the Nana Provider, tethered to its tugboat, with a Canadian Coast Guard vessel bobbing in the background.

“The saddest moment was watching two sea lions mournfully calling for 25 minutes in front of it at low tide the other day. They couldn’t get around it … The barge is right in their favourite place to hunt and play. It’s right through their regular path and through their hunting grounds.”

Transport Canada is investigating how the barge managed to run aground on rocks on the southwest coast of the island.

Nana Provider was being pulled by a tugboat, heading to Alaska, when it hit rocks and damaged its hull. The six people on the tugboat were uninjured and the tug was not damaged.

There were three loaded rail cars on board the barge — one contained compressed carbon dioxide, while the other two contained a corrosion inhibitor. All other rail cars and containers were empty, as was the hull.

The coast guard said there was little risk of pollution.

Boyes said the grounding “sounded horrendous.”

“It sounded like the whole bottom was being ripped open as it was coming in on the rocks. It was pretty damn scary. And then to have the crew yelling: ‘Whoa. Stop. Help.’ I’m sure they’ve never yelled so loud in their lives.”

Prior to the noise, Boyes said, she had looked out at the water because the house was vibrating more than normal, and noticed that the tug was really close to shore at low tide.

“All I remember seeing in the darkness is this huge tug all lit up. The tugs do come close at high tide to avoid the ebbs, but I’ve never seen one this close. It looked low, but it was dark and I was distracted. I turned away, thinking they must know what they’re doing, and within 10 seconds, I heard the barge hitting and I watched it coming right at me.”

The tug was to her right. On her left was the massive dark barge scraping along the rocks.

“I was caught right in the middle hearing the sounds of both vehicles,” Boyes said.

Smith, whose deck was about 200 feet from the stranded barge, said she has watched tugs pulling barges up and down the channel for 40 years and never seen anything like this incident.

If the barge had been full of chemicals, it would have been a dire emergency, said Smith, who hopes the area is monitored now the barge has been removed.

“It’s in a rather sensitive area with octopi and all kinds of sea life and a rock for the seals and the sea lions. And the whales would come right past.

“I think some serious thought has to be given to how they go through, because the tug was 1,000 feet from the barge. They couldn’t have had eyes on the barge, because they were around the corner. It’s not a straight sightline.”

Like Boyes, Smith heard sea lions barking at the barge.

“They were definitely unhappy with this state of affairs.”

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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