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New navigation aids help Oak Harbor boaters

Aberdeen-based Quigg Brothers, Inc, installs new navigation aids to better mark the channel into Oak Harbor Bay Wednesday, Aug. 4.  - Photo courtesy of Mack Funk
Aberdeen-based Quigg Brothers, Inc, installs new navigation aids to better mark the channel into Oak Harbor Bay Wednesday, Aug. 4.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Mack Funk

Thanks to a little sweat and insight from local and state officials, the entrance to Oak Harbor bay became a bit safer for boaters this week.

Aberdeen-based Quigg Brothers, Inc., spent all of Wednesday morning making improvements to navigation aids in the channel leading into the bay. One existing beacon was moved to mark deeper water and had a flashing light added to it, and a second flashing light was added to another beacon as well.

Harbormaster Mack Funk said boaters will likely appreciate the improvements as they should go a long way toward making the channel easier and safer to navigate. In 2009, two boats attempting to get out of heavy weather lost sight of the markers on their way into the harbor and their disorientation resulted in disaster.

“They cut across on low-tide and hit the rocks,” Funk said.

While one of the boats, a 46-foot Maxum, escaped with a lost propeller and bent shaft, the other vessel, a 38-foot Bayliner, hit hard enough that a hole was punched through the hull. Witnesses said the boat sank in less than five minutes.

While the people on board were quickly rescued and escaped injury, the accident made it abundantly clear that the channel markers needed to be improved, Mack said. According to the harbormaster, Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik deserves all the credit for the new navigation aids.

Slowik wrote a letter to the Coast Guard asking that it reevaluate the existing markers in the channel. The improvements would be installed about half a year later. Slowik complimented the agency for the speed in which they responded to his request.

“They really responded promptly,” Slowik said.

Quigg Brothers Superintendent Dan Wolf said the improvements were installed using a derrick crane and barge. The work, which was supervised by officials from the Coast Guard’s Aids for Navigation Team, began at about 5:30 a.m. and was wrapped up by about noon.

According to Slowik, getting the improvements installed now was important because the harbor is used the most during fair weather months. He was particularly happy that they were able to be in place for the second half of crabbing season, which runs from July 1 to Sept. 6.

“I’m glad they are on it,” Slowik said.

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