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On deck when ‘it’ hits the fan

The president of a 61-year-old fourth-generation family business that operates river cruises around Chicago says in all those years on the water they’ve never seen anything like what happened this summer.

On the afternoon of Aug. 8, 117 passengers enjoying a tour of the city’s architecture aboard Chicago’s Little Lady were doused with the effluent from a vehicle on a grated bridge above the a 65-foot steel tour boat.

Authorities are focusing on a bus chartered by the Dave Matthews Band rock group as the culprit in the illegal dumping of a holding tank.

Holly Agra, Mercury Yacht Charters president, says 40 to 50 passengers on the boat’s open aft upper deck were spattered with several hundred pounds of human waste. Agra noted all windows are sealed on the air-conditioned vessel, so an aggressive 90- minute washdown had the tour boat disinfected and back in service.

“We called all hands on deck for the cleaning,” she says.

The company refunded the passengers’ $25 tickets and gave them a voucher for another tour. Agra says Mercury’s insurance company is handling claims for dry cleaning and damage to other personal items.

A black bus matching the band’s chartered bus was photographed by a security camera crossing the steel bridge around the time of the incident, according to local press reports. Illinois’ attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the bus driver and the band. Three weeks after the incident, the band continued to deny responsibility and offered to submit DNA from band members as proof.

Surf before you sail

Intracoastal Waterway cruisers headed south this fall should check out a new Internet message board.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association, in cooperation with BoatU.S., has created a way for boaters to share local knowledge regarding facilities, experiences and channel conditions along the 1,200- mile route threading the East Coast.

The free message board at www.atlintracoastal.orgincludes sections covering the waterway from Norfolk, Va., to Miami. Also included are sections where cruisers and locals can note problem spots, an Army Corps of Engineers news area, and a “Trips” page for Q&A exchanges as well as comments from cruisers en route.

Shark attack kills fishing advocate

Randy Fry, an advocate for conservation and recreational fishing interests, was killed in a shark attack while diving off northern California. Fry, who lived in Auburn, Calif., was the West Coast regional director for the Recreational Fishing Alliance (

“The recreational fishing community will be hard-pressed to find such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable advocate,” read a tribute on the RFA Web site. Among Fry’s accomplishments was getting two recreational anglers onto the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Fry, 50, was attacked by a great white Aug. 15 while he and a friend, Cliff Zimmerman, were diving for abalone near Fort Bragg. Zimmerman told Coast Guard investigators “a big fish” came between them while they surfaced for air before diving again, according to the San Mateo County Times.

Two days later, the Coast Guard recovered Fry’s body with a grappling hook in 15 feet of water three miles south of Westport, according to the newspaper. An examination of the body showed a major bite on the upper torso area.

Melanie Winters

A tale of two rowers

Two European solo ocean rowers attempting months-long passages had two very different finishes.

Anne Quéméré, 37, rowed about 2,700 nautical miles across the North Atlantic in 87 days, 12 hours and 15 minutes. Setting off June 3 from Chatham, Mass., aboard Sardine, a 24- foot strip-planked red cedar and composite plywood and epoxy rowing boat, Quéméré crossed the Lizard Meridian Line off Brittany, France, Aug. 30, more than two days ahead of her target date.

“My joy is indescribable,” she wrote on her Web site upon completing the voyage in the self-righting unsinkable boat.

The Ocean Rowing Society reports Quéméré is the first woman — and only the third person — to row the Atlantic both east-to-west and west-to-east.

In stark contrast, English rower Mick Dawson, 39, was rescued Aug. 22 about 1,000 miles southwest of Kodiak, Alaska, in his second attempt to row from Choshi, Japan, to San Francisco. Dawson abandoned the voyage after his 23-foot epoxy and fiberglassreinforced marine plywood rowing boat, Mrs. D’s Viking Spirit, capsized more than 109 days into the attempt.

Coast Guard Station Juneau received Dawson’s EPIRB signal and launched two C-130 Hercules long-range aircraft, coordinating the rescue with the 925- foot freighter Hanjin Philadelphia. The Coast Guard reports the rescue cost $84,880.