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Sailboat catches on Aerial Lift Bridge

Windsong II, a sailboat based in Duluth, is hung up on the Aerial Lift Bridge in the Duluth Shipping Canal on Wednesday evening. The boat got too close to the bridge while waiting for the 6:30 p.m. lift. (Photo by Drew Carlson)

A sailboat with five people aboard became hung up on the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge while the bridge was in the down position Wednesday.

The Windsong II sailboat was towed to safety by a good Samaritan’s fishing boat, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The accident happened on the bay side of the bridge. The boat’s forward sail came in contact with the bridge just minutes before the bridge was scheduled to rise at 6:30 p.m. Traffic crossed the bridge while the towing effort was underway, officials said.

“It was waiting for the lift when we went under,” said Petty Officer Harry Quinlan, who was among the crew aboard a smaller Coast Guard vessel. “It drifted into the bridge. It was out — the good Samaritan yanked him off the bridge — as we got back to the scene about eight minutes later.”

Lift Bridge operator Scott Hill believed the wind currents were to blame.

“They got too close and the wind current probably pulled them in,” Hill said.

Hill said people can check the wind current indicator lights at the very top of the north tower.

The red light indicates an inbound current of ¾ to 1½ knots (nautical miles per hour); the amber light means it is neutral and the green current indicates an outbound current of ¾ to 1½ knots.