More than 50 people who signed up for a scenic cruise on Lake Michigan near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore got more than they bargained for when the vessel began to sink in high seas.
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, though the U.S. Coast Guard joined the National Park Service in rescuing the passengers. Before the end of the mission, two Coast Guard helicopters, a Park Service boat, and four fire departments were involved in the incident involving the Sleeping Bear Dunes Cruises ship.
According to Phil Akers, chief ranger at Sleeping Bear:
On the evening of July 25th, a distress call was transmitted by the 50-foot-long vessel Pictured Rocks, advising that it was taking on water and going down in Lake Michigan in five- to seven-foot seas within the park. The vessel was located six miles offshore from Sleeping Bear Point and had 54 passengers on board.
The initial response included four NPS rangers from the mainland, a ranger and vessel from North Manitou Island, four fire departments, two Coast Guard helicopters from the USCG Air Station in Traverse City, and a marine unit from the USCG station in Frankfort.
The captain ran the vessel onto the beach just south of North Bar Lake within the park, where most of the passengers were able to disembark from the vessel. Two were lifted by helicopter off the vessel and taken to the beach for treatment, and another three were transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
All 54 passengers were accounted for, along with the crew.
It appears that the junior captain who was operating the vessel made some tactical errors in steerage and thrust applications, resulting in the wheel house windows all being blown in by a wave or waves. The vessel lost all electronics and some or all
steering. The wheel house had a foot of water in it from the waves.
The vessel was removed from the beach the next afternoon after an all-day sand excavation operation. The Coast Guard is leading the investigation.