By Raina Clark
On Friday, March 11, Jeff Ruby’s Waterfront restaurant, situated on a barge on the Ohio River, broke loose from its moorings and began floating down river, with diners trapped onboard, toward the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge. According to local media the barge floated 85 feet downriver and was saved from hitting the bridge by a mooring cable that was still attached.
The restaurant is two miles from where McGinnis Inc. keeps its Cincinnati fleet, but some of the company’s towboats were already working in a dock just upriver from the restaurant. Doug Hedrick, Manager of Marine Operations, Cincinnati Division, at McGinnis, said that just a few minutes later, “about 10:15 p.m., we got a call that the Waterfront restaurant had broke away … We were there within 10 minutes.”
The MV Susan E McGinnis arrived on the scene first. “We came up underneath of it, [downriver] and took some pressure off of it,” Hedrick said, referring to the remaining mooring line that was holding the restaurant back from the bridge. Then the boat pushed the restaurant barge toward shore. A second tug, the MV Vivian McGinnis, was stationed “right outside the restaurant,” Hedrick said, “10 feet away, on the outside making sure the restaurant didn’t go any further than it already had.”
According to local reports, all 84 people in the restaurant were offloaded by the Covington Fire Department after 11:00 p.m. on Friday. According to the Coast Guard, first responders secured a ladder to the restaurant's gangway to allow the passengers to evacuate one at a time. All passengers were evacuated safely with no injuries.
Towboats from C&B Marine also arrived on the scene and remained with the restaurant barge after the McGinnis boats departed at about 2:30 a.m. Rob Carlisle, President of C&B Marine, said that their MV Steve Kuhr helped keep the restaurant barge in place through the night. At about 8:00 a.m. the next day, Saturday, the MV Wayne C was also on scene to assist.
“We brought a crane in on Saturday and prepared to release the ramp still attached to the barge,” Carlisle said. “On Sunday we used the James H, the Steve Kuhr, the Wayne C and the Beverly Wayne to move the restaurant to Covington Landing,” a new docking site, upriver about three quarters of a mile from the restaurant’s original location.
The C&B Marine boats moved the barge upriver at a rate of a half-mile to a mile per hour, for four hours, Carlisle said. “The waters were quite violent,” he said. “The river level was at 56 feet, four feet above flood stage.” The two story restaurant sits on a 230-ft by 50-ft barge, Carlisle said, and he compared the job to pushing the bulk of a city block upriver. Once at the Covington Landing, Carlisle said, “we were assisted by Aquarius Marine [a rigging company]” whose sectional barges were used to tie up the Waterfront restaurant barge. C&B Marine’s operations were finished Sunday at 4:30 pm.
C&B Marine, a Covington, Ky.-based company, is a product of a recent merger of Greater Cincinnati Marine and Bray Marine. The Coast Guard is investigating the reason the Waterfront restaurant broke away from its moorings.