MV LeConte

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MV LeConte
LeConte heads into Auke Bay in Juneau, Alaska
Career
Name: LeConte
Namesake: LeConte Glacier near Petersburg, Alaska
Owner: Flag of Alaska.svg Alaska Marine Highway System
Port of registry:  United States
Builder: Peterson Shipbuilders, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Launched: 1973
Commissioned: 1974
Homeport: Juneau, Alaska
Status: in active service, as of 2014
General characteristics
Displacement: 2,132 long tons (2,166 t)
Length: 235 ft (72 m)
Beam: 57 ft (17 m)
Draft: 13 ft 11 in (4.24 m)
Ramps: Aft, port, and starboard ro-ro loading
Installed power: Two Caterpillar 3412, rated for 467kW at 1800rpm
Propulsion: Two EMD 645F7B 2,550 hp (1,902 kW) each 4,300 hp (3,207 kW)SHP
Speed: 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h; 16.7 mph)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
Two life boats and Two Life Rafts
Capacity: 250 passengers
34 automobiles
Crew: 24 Billets

MV LeConte /ləˈkɑːnt/ is a feeder vessel for the Alaska Marine Highway System, built in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in 1973 and commissioned in 1974 by Alaska's ferry system. LeConte is the older sister ship to M/V Aurora, and both serve as feeder vessels that pick up passengers in small communities such as Hoonah and take them to larger regional communities (this process is colloquially known as the "milk run").

In the case of the LeConte, it primarily serves in the northern portion of the Alaskan Panhandle in between Sitka and Juneau, but it also occasionally ventures all through Southeast Alaska as well, however, in a highly controversial and political change, the LeConte was turned into a day boat operated exclusively out of Juneau, cutting service to the community of Pelican, and cutting service to the hub of Sitka — home of the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Center, a hospital that solely serves the Native Alaskan community, the primary demographic of the Leconte's ports of call.

The bell on the front of the boat

The LeConte, in the summer of 2005 made a number of stops in Bartlett Cove, which is one of the gateways of Glacier Bay National Park.

The LeConte '​s amenities include a hot-food cafeteria, movie and forward observation lounges, and solarium. There are no cabins on the LeConte both because of its small size and the lack of demand due to its feeder route running times.

The LeConte and the M/V Aurora are the only AMHS vessels able to serve the communities of Angoon, Pelican, Tenakee Springs, and two of the three vessels (the M/V Taku also is able to access these ports) to serve Hoonah and Kake. This quality is due because of these vessels' small sizes thus making them both vital assets for the ferry system and the residents of these rural villages.

Grounding[edit]

On May 10, 2004, the M/V LeConte nearly sank after running aground Cozian Reef in Peril Strait en route to Sitka. 86 passengers and 23 crew were on board at the time and all safely evacuated the ship upon grounding. After a Coast Guard response, passengers were evacuated to nearby good samaritan vessels to be taken to Sitka and booms were laid out to encircle the stranded, empty vessel. Soon after, 23,000 gallons of fuel were pumped out of the fuel tanks and cars were transferred to a landing craft in an elaborate procedure. A salvage operation then began and the vessel was successfully escorted to Ketchikan's Alaska Ship and Dry Dock for repairs under tow after temporary patches were put onto the expansive gashes that compromised five separate compartments of the hull — enough to have sunk the ship had it been lifted off its perch on the reef. Only minor injuries were suffered and only during the evacuation of the boat. The LeConte has now been repaired and is back in service. It is widely agreed a more dire emergency could have resulted had the weather not been so accommodating during the entire salvage process, especially in light of the fact that the LeConte was already listing ten degrees and the tides in Peril Strait were already making the situation highly precarious.

After assessing the circumstances of the grounding, it was concluded operator error caused the incident (not the notorious tidal currents that Peril Strait is known for) and those in command of the vessel were fired from the ferry system.

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