This water taxi captain prevented a runaway barge from ramming into downtown Seattle. Here's his account
Captain Dan Krehbiel was steering a water taxi boat from West Seattle on Thursday when he spotted a runaway barge — a six-story wall of steel containers — headed at a clipped pace in the direction of the Great Wheel and the Seattle Aquarium.
What follows is Krehbiel’s account of what happened.
We were in West Seattle, ready to make our trip across to the downtown side.
As we started hitting toward Seattle, a barge came out from the pier.
It was moving faster than you ever see tugs moving. We thought, this isn't right. This is bad. It’s windy. And it’s headed for the waterfront.
We got around to the other side of the barge to check if there was a tug dragging it, but nope, sure enough, there were no tugs on it. At that point, we knew it had broken away from its moorings. We had to see if we could divert it.
I couldn’t get too reckless – I had passengers on board. I had to keep them safe, and also try to keep the barge off the waterfront.
We made a quick announcement that we were going to be delayed to divert a runaway barge. I think I heard somebody downstairs say, “Cool.”
I knew by its size that we weren’t gonna be able to stop it. I was going to use this boat as a tugboat – and steer it away from the waterfront.
I tried to nose up to the barge without hitting it too hard, because I don’t have rubber fendering like a tugboat. It’s pretty hard to hit a big steel barge with a little aluminum boat.
It’s almost an immovable object that we were hitting. By that time, the barge was moving pretty good – making four and a half knots. That’s over five miles an hour.
We bounced off it the first time – I was like, oooh, that was jarring – and that’s when I knew I was going to have to push hard against it and then stay there. So I ran up against it a second time and started pushing on it.
It was a David and Goliath attempt, and we were able to start to change the course of the barge. But then, as it accelerated, we kind of got flattened back up against the barge. At that point, I knew that was all we could do. There was no way I was going to get in front of it to slow it down.
So we got behind it and tried to get a line on it.
I had Deckhand Cory Bantam up on the bridge handling communications and talking to passengers and being a lookout. Deckhand Nick Williams was downstairs. He went up to the bow to get a line on the barge – but we weren’t able to get it secured before the wind started blowing me away from it.
At that point, it was stand back and watch and hope for the best – and it worked out as absolutely best as it could.
I heard something about applause after we finished.
My wife is making more of this than I am. And my daughter has posted about it. She says, “Seattle, thanks to my dad, you’re alive, something like that.”
Captain Dan Krehbiel dropped off his passengers just 15 minutes late. He has been a captain for more than 30 years, including 14 with King County Marine Division.
This interview was edited for clarity. Produced by Isolde Raftery for web.