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Vessel operator says whale watch boat that was entangled with cable was in restricted area

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BOSTON - A group of whale watchers expecting only an afternoon tour were forced instead to spend a long night at sea after their boat was snagged by a mooring cable off Massachusetts, officials and passengers said Tuesday.

Boston Harbor Cruises, which operates the whale watch, confirmed that the 83-foot Cetacea strayed into a restricted area, and the company said it was co-operating with a Coast Guard investigation.

Some 17 hours after the voyage began, divers freed the boat early Tuesday and it docked at Boston's Long Wharf shortly after 8 a.m. No injuries were reported for any of the 157 passengers or six crew members, but a number of people suffered seasickness during the long wait, according to passengers.

The whale watch, one of the most popular summer tourist attractions in the Boston area, came to an abrupt stop about 13 miles offshore Monday afternoon after one of the propellers became entangled with a cable in the Northeast Gateway Deepwater Port, the Coast Guard said. The facility handles large liquefied natural gas tankers entering Massachusetts Bay.

The vessel was in a "restricted management area" when it got stuck, Boston Harbor Cruises said. The company planned meetings with the captain and crew but said it would defer to the Coast Guard's findings "as to whether or not operator error was a contributing factor to the entanglement."

Ken Maguire, who was with his wife and two daughters, ages 6 and 9, spent a sleepless night on the vessel in choppy seas.

"It was kind of like being on the tarmac on a plane, and it's not taking off and you are waiting and waiting, except the plane is rocking back and forth," said Maguire, who lives in Falls Church, Virginia.

He estimated about 20 passengers got ill. At one point, the Coast Guard brought two paramedics aboard the vessel but there was little they could do to aid people who felt sick.

Divers were brought to the scene about 13 miles offshore Monday night but were unable to detach the cable, and an attempt to transfer the passengers to another vessel was aborted because of the rough seas, he said.

Another team of divers arrived with stronger equipment to detach the cable early Tuesday.

The ordeal was an adventure for Colter Bawden, 8, of Newmarket, Ontario, who was on the whale watch with his parents and sister.

"Well, I really liked it," he said, "but everybody else got sick because it was too rocky by the waves."

His favourite part was getting to sleep on the boat at sea, something he had never experienced before.

Passengers will receive a refund on their $50 ticket, a $100 gift card for a future Boston Harbor Cruise and $500 cash for their troubles, said Sheila Green, a spokeswoman for the operator.

Maguire said while he appreciated the gesture from the company, the former Boston resident said it was likely his family's "first and last whale watch."

___

Associated Press writer Rodrique Ngowi contributed.

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