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Coast Guard finally corrals the boat that wouldn’t sink
t Abandoned vessel is the second to wash onto Bainbridge Island this year.
It was a boat nobody wanted.
The 40-foot yacht Sunrise was first reported to the U.S. Coast Guard at 7:26 a.m. on Sunday, drifting partially submerged just 75 feet off Waterman Point, northeast of Port Orchard.
In the following three hours the abandoned vessel made a one and a half mile voyage across Rich Passage, while the Coast Guard monitored its progress.
By 11 a.m., Sunrise was awash in shallow water off Pleasant Beach on Bainbridge.
To the consternation of surrounding homeowners, it stayed there until Friday morning.
That’s when Global Diving and Salvage, under contract with the state Department of Natural Resources floated Sunrise and towed it to Bremerton.
The incident left Harbormaster Tami Allen wondering if the Coast Guard and other agencies could do more to intercede with abandoned vessels before they wash ashore.
“You wouldn’t leave a car accident rolling down the highway,” she said.
How Sunrise became swamped in Rich Passage to begin with remains murky.
The boat’s owner, Alex Callamore, said he had motored Sunrise out of Port Orchard Saturday night. He said he was bound for Tacoma, where he planned to give the boat away or scrap it.
Sunrise didn’t make it far before running out of fuel, and Callamore said he anchored it and rowed to shore in a dinghy. When he came to check on Sunrise in the morning it was gone, he said. Callamore said Sunrise was in disrepair, so he assumed it had simply sunk.
But Sunrise had not sunk, and Sunday morning it was reported to the Coast Guard by a Port Orchard resident.
Soon, the abandoned vessel was meandering into Rich Passage where it was observed by a passing ferry.
U.S. Coast Guard policy dictates that drifting vessels are left to private salvage companies to handle, unless lives are in danger. The Coast Guard was monitoring Sunrise and coordinating with other agencies, including the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and the state Department of Ecology.
A Sheriff’s vessel escorted Sunrise out of traffic lanes, and into shallow water between Point White and Pleasant Beach, where it was allowed to go aground.
Global Diving and Salvage was next on the scene at the request of the Coast Guard, to assess the fuel spill danger. Fuel tanks were found to be open and containing only salt water. A diver checked the boat’s engine room and found no free-floating fuel.
After ensuring the vessel was not a spill risk, Global departed, leaving residents watching from shore mystified as to why none of the responding agencies had secured the vessel.
Ron Larson of Global, who responded to Sunrise Sunday, said that if his company attaches an anchor or line to a boat it can be held responsible for its condition.
Later that evening, residents called Bainbridge Police to report that Sunrise was afloat and drifting close to boats anchored nearby. Harbor Commissioner Bob Selzler attached an anchor to the boat to help keep it in place.
Pleasant Beach resident Ian Patrick who kept an eye on Sunrise as it wallowed in front of his house this week, said the boat was in ragged condition. It was missing several planks above the waterline, most of its fly bridge and its steering console, and appeared to have been stripped of metal, he said.
Callamore agreed this week to pay for DNR removing the vessel. Early Friday morning a crew from Global pumped out the boat and towed it away on the incoming tide.
Allen said she expects the incident will be investigated.
In March, the 36-foot Chris Craft Jubilee drifted out of Puget Sound and into shallow water in Murden Cove under nearly identical circumstances as the Sunrise.
Like the Sunrise, the Jubilee was abandoned by its owner midway through a trip, without being reported. In both cases the boats drifted for hours while being monitored by the Coast Guard, and washed ashore on Bainbridge where they were anchored by Bob Selzler. Both sat mired in mud for several days before their removal was coordinated by DNR.
Selzler said he expects to see more unwanted vessels left adrift.
“There are just more and more old boats in Puget Sound that are of zero value, and I think that will just spur more of this sort of thing,” Selzler said.