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Grounded ship is freed

Mystic - A tall ship schooner that ran aground in the mouth of the Mystic River early Wednesday night was refloated just before 7 p.m. Thursday, a Coast Guard spokesman said.

With only a half foot of draft to spare, the ship had floated at a tilt all day Thursday while waiting for the tide to come back in.

The Alabama, owned by The Black Dog Tall Ships Co. in Vineyard Haven, Mass., was outbound when it ran aground at about 6:15 p.m. near a light.

According to Lt. Jarod Toczko, the command center chief of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, the boat ran aground on rocks, or shoals, near a light structure informally called "Noank Light 5."

The water is 13 feet deep at that spot and the boat's draft is about 12.5 feet, Toczko said. The Alabama never took on water and there were no injuries, he said, adding that the vessel was sitting on its keel on the rocks.

There were 33 people on board the boat, including 27 passengers who were all between 15 and 18 years old.

Toczko said six people remained with the vessel overnight until Coast Guard inspectors arrived Thursday morning. He said the inspectors found no structural damage.

"There was no breach of the hold, and no flooding," he said.

Tozcko said the Alabama was towed to Noank Shipyard Thursday where the exterior could be inspected for damage.

"A dive team will have to verify the structural integrity," he said. "They will inspect the underwater hold portion. Our marine inspectors did the internal areas. We did the inside. They'll do the outside."

According to the company's website, it offers a sailing school where students learn everything from how to sail to a curriculum that includes social studies, mathematics, language arts, science, music and arts.

Robert Douglas, owner of the company and one of the boat's captains, could not be reached to comment Thursday. A woman who answered the phone at the company's headquarters said Douglas was on board The Alabama and would not provide information on how to reach him.

The company contracted with Tow Boat U.S. to help it off of the rocks.

Don Rich, the towing company's owner, said the company attempted to get the boat off of the rocks on Wednesday night and lost too much tide. Rich said his company as well as Sea Tow and the Mystic Whaler, docked in New London, helped transfer passengers to shore on Wednesday.

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