MOUNT DESERT — A scenic cruise on Sea Princess on Monday delivered more excitement than the 46 passengers may have expected, as smoke began coming out of the engine compartment.
There was no fire, and everyone got off the boat safely.
“A weld let go, and the exhaust elbow became disconnected from the engine,” said James Allen, who, with his brother Andrew, owns the cruise company. “So the exhaust and soot that would have gone into the exhaust elbow ended up going into the engine compartment and looked like smoke. It really looked like we had a fire.”
He said the incident occurred around 3:30 p.m., toward the end of the trip that began in Northeast Harbor at 1:15 p.m. The boat was in Somes Sound at Valley Cove.
It lost some engine power, but Capt. Rob Liebow, who previously owned Sea Princess, was able to get it to the dock at a private home on the east shore of the sound. Allen said one of the residents welcomed the passengers and offered them water, while the caretaker called Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor, which sent its bus to pick them up.
Allen said Mike Furnari, the narrator for the cruise, “continued his narration for the group as they walked up the lawn.”
As soon as Liebow saw smoke coming from the engine box, he got on the radio with an emergency call. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor harbormasters responded immediately and stood by in case they were needed. On Great Cranberry Island, Patrick Allen also heard the call and dropped what he was doing.
“Immediately upon hearing the call for help, he jumped in his boat and rushed over,” said James Allen (no relation to Patrick).
Patrick Allen towed the stricken Sea Princess up the sound to John Williams Boat Company for repairs. James Allen said the Coast Guard was scheduled to inspect it Tuesday afternoon, and he expected to have it back in operation on Wednesday.
Allen spent much of the day Tuesday calling the passengers whose trip was cut short to apologize and offer them free tickets for a future cruise.
“I told them that in 12 years, we’ve never missed a trip because of a mechanical issue,” he said. “Most of them are very understanding. All of the passengers I’ve spoken to said how calmly and efficiently it was handled.”
As for everyone involved in the incident, Allen said their quick response and assistance was “really heartwarming.”