San Francisco Party Boat Almost Sinks Off Alcatraz

The owners of a party boat said Saturday that they were shocked when their vessel hit a shoal near Alcatraz Island and nearly sank with 22 passengers on board.

The 40-foot Neptune was hosting a bachelor party Friday night when it hit a rocky outcropping that tore a foot-long gash in the side of the boat. All of the passengers were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, and the boat was towed to Sausalito for repairs.

No one was injured in the incident and there was no pollution damage, according to the Coast Guard.

Melissa McDowell, who owns the boat with her husband, Kevin, said they have no idea how they managed to hit the shoal, which is marked by a buoy and well-known by the captain of the Neptune. McDowell, her husband, and their adult daughter were all on the boat during the incident.

“It was very dark and the buoy isn’t lit, so you have to rely on radar and the bell,” McDowell said. “But we have an experienced captain. He’s been on the water for over 10 years, maybe close to 20 years. And that was routine for us.

“Trust me, this will never happen to us again,” she said.

The Neptune, described by the owners as a “1958 classic cabintop cruiser” that can carry up to 42 passengers, typically hosts wine-tasting parties. But the bachelor party voyagers were beer drinkers, and McDowell’s daughter, Megan Smith, was playing bartender and pouring beer for them instead.

The crash happened at about 8:45 p.m., about 20 minutes into the trip. The boat jolted when it hit the shoal and McDowell said she immediately threw life jackets at the passengers and told them to stay put.

The captain attempted to steer the boat toward shore but the damage made it difficult. The Coast Guard arrived after only a few minutes and the passengers were taken to Pier 39 while the McDowells, their daughter, and the boat’s captain stayed behind to check out the damage and wait for another ride to shore.

The couple only started their floating wine-tasting business, called San Francisco Bay Boat Cruises, in March and the accident is a major setback, McDowell said. But by Saturday afternoon she’d already received e-mails of support from previous passengers who had read about the accident, and she and her husband are determined to get back out on the water.

“We’ve got something really unique here and people enjoy being with us,” McDowell said. “We’re going to get the boat back as soon as we can and just keep going.”

Courtesy of www.sfgate.com

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