OLYMPIA – Getting a nearly fully submerged 52-foot wooden boat out of the water is tricky, but it’s a job Mark Osborne is always prepared to do.
He and his crew from Osborne Marine arrived via tugboat Monday afternoon at the Westbay Marina in Olympia and struggled through the evening to raise a boat that was first spotted sinking Monday morning.
The vessel, a gasoline-fueled Chris-Craft Constellation, was reported sinking near the F dock about 4 a.m. Monday by a neighbor who lives in a nearby boat, according to marina workers. Workers were on scene soon after and called for fire response. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Ecology were also on scene during the day.
Only the cabin roof was above water.
The goal for Osborne was to get the boat floating again so water could be pumped out of its hull and it could eventually be transported out of the marina and onto dry land.
The owner watched the salvage attempt from the dock. He said he planned to take the boat across the inlet to the Swantown Marina, which has a boat lift and yard, but was waiting for his insurance company to check the boat and decide what would be covered.
After diving into the water, Osborne filled openings, including several portholes, with makeshift plugs, including the foam from cushions.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing,” Osborne said to his crew through a two-way radio.
He then placed two 6,000-pound capacity salvage bags near the engines.
About an hour after entering the water, Osborne emerged and the crew began filling the bags with air. But as the air slowly lifted the boat, a section of it got caught under the dock, prompting the crew to stop air flow.
“There’s a certain amount of guesswork as to where to lift so the boat doesn’t roll or anything disastrous,” Osborne said.
Once the boat’s hull is out of the water, crews can pump the water out.
Three boats moored nearby were moved for safety reasons, including Gabe Mondragon’s 25-foot sailboat, which he lives on. Mondragon heard banging and scraping all night and finally investigated to find it was the sounds of the sinking boat.
The boat was leaking fuel, and a spill team from the Department of Ecology was on scene all day. Marina manager Neil Falkenburg said that a couple of gallons spilled and created a light sheen but quickly dispersed.
Marina maintenance worker Dan Stangl said the marina has boats sink about once a year, but only half of those have required the response seen Monday.
“There’s so much unknown when a boat goes under in the middle of the night,” he said.
He added that Osborne, who has raised more than 200 boats in his 23 years in the business, and his services are a necessity in the area.
“In Budd Inlet, he is kind of the guy,” Stangl said.
Falkenburg said the bill for just the response could end up costing upwards of $5,000, which would land on the owner.
Depending on the condition of the boat, they are oftentimes salvageable, Osborne said.
“Quite honestly, it’s a terrible job to have to clean one up, but half the time they are serviceable,” Osborne said.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org