Sunday, March 26, 2006

Vessel Hits Sandbar On Columbia River

The nearly 200 passengers aboard a luxury sternwheeler cruise ship made it to shore in good spirits Friday night after the ship ran aground in the Columbia River. "Go with the flow," Ruth Larson of Ontario, Calif., said with a smile after she disembarked the recovery ship. "Go with the flow." The 360-foot Empress of the North struck a sandbar in the river channel. Passengers and crew remained onboard for more than eight hours until they were loaded, via a barge, to a sister sternwheeler. The recovery ship, the 230-foot Queen of the West, took passengers and crew to the nearby Port of Washougal. No injuries were reported.
Empress of the North
It was an unexpected twist for passengers on the weeklong cruise that left Astoria on Sunday. Guests came from across the nation to take the scenic river trip, which included several stops for area attractions. But many onboard said they were still pleased with the experience despite running aground. "It was the first time we felt anything the whole trip," said Muriel Zimmerman, of Cherry Valley, Calif. "It was such a smooth trip." Passengers said when they hit the sandbar, the boat jolted and rumbled like it was riding over gravel. Guests said the staff quickly informed them that the ship was trying to avoid an upcoming barge and as a result, accidentally hit a sandbar. The Multnomah County Sheriff's office said wind and choppy waters may have sent the vessel off course. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
The Queen of the West, right, is pulled alongside the Empress of the North, a 360-foot luxury sternwheeler cruise ship, in order to take aboard passengers and crew members after the larger ship ran aground during a Columbia River cruise.

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