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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — High winds from one typhoon helped ground a ship that was anchored in Yokosuka’s harbor to escape a different tropical storm.

The USNS Yukon was grounded on soft mud at around 3:25 a.m. Wednesday, according to a U.S. Seventh Fleet news release. At the time winds were gusting at 51 mph. The ship grounded about 400 yards from its anchored position in about 60 feet of water, said Lt. Cmdr. Marc Boyd, a Seventh Fleet spokesman.

The winds were produced by Typhoon Songda, which swept the Kanto Plain as it skirted past Tuesday night. More precisely, the winds were produced when Songda’s weather system clashed with a high-pressure system, according to Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Palmer, a meteorologist at Yokosuka’s Naval Pacific Meteorological and Oceanographic Center.

The crew of the Yukon, a 677-foot long oiler, discovered they were drifting or “dragging their anchor,” at about 3 a.m., Boyd said. “Port operations got out there and removed them to safety.”

Three U.S. Navy tugs helped the Yukon free itself from the soft mud, according to the news release.

The Yukon, one of 14 oilers in the Military Sealift Command and part of the Seventh Fleet, had anchored in the harbor to escape Tropical Storm Sarika, according to the Seventh Fleet press release.

Sarika hit the Northern Mariana Islands earlier this week, was in the Philippine Sea and was heading north, possibly to the Kanto Plain. But instead, Sarika “fizzled out,” Palmer said.

The Yukon appeared undamaged from its grounding, according to the news release, although the ship was to undergo a more thorough assessment, Boyd said.

Oilers, which provide fuel to ships and aircraft at sea, typically are manned by about 90 civilian mariners and six U.S. Navy sailors, according to the press release. The Yukon’s ship’s master, or commander, Mike Grogan, is a civilian.

The grounding of a ship is considered a serious matter and, in the U.S. Navy, can result in a captain’s removal. “It’s certainly not going to be good for my career,” Grogan, reached by phone on the Yukon’s quarterdeck, said Wednesday.

An investigation will be conducted into why the ship was grounded, Boyd said.

Grogan said the ship was not grounded for long and that he had an explanation for what happened but declined to give it Wednesday. “I’d rather wait for the investigation before I give any public statement,” he said.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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