One boat sinks, one damaged in stormy weather

A steady crowd of onlookers filter by the Oak Harbor Marina public boat ramp as James Allen, on the dock, and Jason Aydelotte remove lift bags from the 38-foot Bayliner, “Never Satisfied.”  - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
A steady crowd of onlookers filter by the Oak Harbor Marina public boat ramp as James Allen, on the dock, and Jason Aydelotte remove lift bags from the 38-foot Bayliner, “Never Satisfied.”
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

The crew from Marine Services, a salvage company out of Cornet Bay, towed a fully submerged power boat into the Oak Harbor marina Monday afternoon. The 38-foot boat sat on the silty bottom of the marina overnight, with only a chair protruding above the water at high tide.

“It was a wreck removal, not really a salvage,” said Capt. John Aydelotte of Marine Services. He explained that the sunken Bayliner had to be towed out because it was a hazard to other boats.

Two boats were damaged, and one sank, after striking rocks off of Maylor Point during stormy weather at about 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The boats strayed outside the safe channel designated by buoys, but they were difficult to see in bad weather.

“We think the channel needs to be marked better,” Harbormaster Mack Funk admitted.

Funk explained that the Coast Guard is in charge of markers, but the city officials will likely make a request for easier-to-see buoys marking the rocky area. The boating accident may help the city make its case.

It was a Labor Day weekend boating trip that went terribly wrong. Larry Richards, a Woodinville businessman, said he and his wife went boating with another couple. The Richards’ were in a 46-foot Maxum, while the other couple was following in the ill-fated Bayliner.

The boaters left from Edmonds Saturday morning and headed to the San Juan Islands. Richards said the weather was calm until they hit the area around North Whidbey.

“We ran into hellacious waves and winds,” he said.

Richards said they realized the weather was too intense, so they decided to head for safety at the Oak Harbor marina. On the way, the winds knocked out the instruments on Richards’ boat, electronically blinding him. He lost sight of the buoys, which mark the safe channel, in the six-foot waves.

The boats strayed from the channel into an area that Aydelotte describes as “a stretch of rocks.” Richards’ boat struck the rocks first, breaking off a prop and bending the shaft.

Then the Bayliner hit the rocks, which ripped a hole in the hull. Richards said the boat sank in less than five minutes. The couple had on life jackets and got safely into the water.

Richards quickly launched his tender and pulled up his friends from the waves. He said a rescue boat from the marina came out to help, but the boat was bobbing too much in the high waves. They asked his wife to shoot a flare.

Everyone made it safely to dry land. Richards said his friends were very emotional about the alarming incident.

“It was hairy for awhile,” Richards said. “It was very scary.”

Richards said his boat will have to be fixed, but the Bayliner was a “200 percent loss.”

Aydelotte said the storm ripped the boat apart and scattered debris.

“There was some great beach combing this weekend,” he joked.

The captain explained that his team of divers attached rigging to lift points on the sunken boat to get the vessel off the floor. Then they towed it to the marina, where it will be pulled out of the water and junked.

Aydelotte said he didn’t see any sign of a fuel leak. The Department of Ecology supervised the salvage operation because the boat’s tanks contained an estimated 275 gallons of diesel fuel. The department reported that an oil containment curtain was deployed as a precaution to protect the sensitive marsh on Navy property at Maylor Point.

“I am just glad that nobody got hurt. That’s the main thing,” Funk said.

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