Towboat Nudges Runaway Dock with 16 Boats to Riverbank After
Wild 5-Mile Ride
17 January 2013
By Rick Steelhammer
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- A covered dock containing 16 boats moored in
slips broke free of its moorings in St. Albans early Thursday and
drifted 5 miles down a rain-swollen Kanawha River before a towboat
nudged it to safety along the riverbank in Putnam County.
No major damage was visible to the dock or the boats, at least one
of which was 37 feet in length.
The dock, owned by Lou Wendell Marine, had recently been moved
from its previous location under the Nitro-St. Albans Bridge, to a
nearby site outside the span's demolition safety zone. Water
levels in the Kanawha on Thursday were high, but not exceedingly
so, according to Lou Wendell.
"I don't know what happened," said Wendell. "I got a call early
this morning that it had happened, but that's about all I can tell
"Miraculously, the currents allowed the dock to pass underneath
the Nitro-St. Albans Bridge and the interstate highway bridge
without apparently contacting the bridge piers," said Bill Barr,
vice president for safety and compliance for Amherst-Madison,
formerly Madison Coal & Supply Co.
The Amherst-Madison towboat Shirley was working as
a harbor boat at the John Amos power plant on Thursday. When
alerted that the runaway dock was approaching them, Shirley's
crew, led by Capt. Jerrick Marker, headed upstream and encountered
the dock a short distance downstream of the Interstate 64 Bridge,
according to Barr.
Amherst-Madison personnel working at the company's Teays facility
on the Kanawha near the I-64 crossing told Barr that the dock
appeared to have been lined up to collide with a bridge pier, but
the current swept it away in time to avoid impact.
"That put it on a collision course with our dock, but again the
current sent it out," Barr said.
The Shirley appeared on the scene a few minutes later, approached
the dock, and began nudging it toward the left descending bank of
the Kanawha, a short distance upstream from the John Amos plant.
"Since the dock wasn't rigid, the Shirley couldn't get underneath
it and power it to shore," Barr said. "Jerrick Marker had to very
gently and gradually nudge it to the bank where his crew was able
to secure it to the shore."
One boat owner estimated that the value of the 16 boats berthed in
the dock exceeded $2 million.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or