Monday, August 9, 2010

Yet Another Impromptu Salvage Mission

Sometime late last Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, one of the resident fishing boats in the Petaluma River Turning Basin sank alongside the dock.  Fearing the very real potential for leaking environmental hazards, the Fire Department turned out and rigged a containment boom around the wreck and then hired a local contractor with a self-propelled crane barge to raise it and haul it away.  There's a brief article about the sinking HERE.

Everything looked like it would go pretty smoothly until the owner of the barge couldn't get his engines running.  Desperate for help, he contacted the Skipper of the Petaluma Sea Scout ship, the Compass Rose, for assistance.  The Sea Scouts turned up with one of their small boats, a 33-foot ex-Navy utility boat, which they used as a tugboat to tow the barge up to the turning basin.  Then they aided the barge owner in rigging lifting slings under the fishing boat, raising it to the surface, and setting up pumps to remove some of the water inside.

I do some volunteer work with the scouts, so the following morning I joined the adventure when the Sea Scouts returned with the utility boat and a donated Ski Nautique competition ski boat. 

It's a terrible picture, but here's the fishing boat (an old wooden Monterey that's probably around 70+ years old) bound up on the forward end of the barge:
Salvage Mess

They lashed the utility boat to the stern of the barge to push and steer and then I tied the ski boat alongside the fishing boat which was tied across the bow of the barge.  This way I could use the ski boat's engine as a bow thruster, steering the forward end of the barge.  Here's a video clip taken by an onlooker of the whole jury-rigged operation passing through the D Street drawbridge:


Here's one of the crowds of bystanders (including the guy that shot the video):
Salvage Audience

From where I was in the ski boat, here's what my view looked like:
Calm Petaluma River
Fortunately we'd picked a nice, calm, windless day to move the 250-ton barge with just a couple of small boats.

Once the barge was clear of the Turning Basin, we decided it would be better to use something less ponderous to move the boat down to the marina's boat ramp. So we moored the barge at it's usual berth downriver from the Foundry Wharf and took the small boats back to the marina. Then they got underway in the SSS Compass Rose (which has onboard generators that could power the dewatering pumps keeping the old fishing boat afloat):
Salvage Mess3

Not long after that, the Compass Rose had towed the old Monterey to the boat ramp and the city Public Works Department was dragging it ashore to be dismantled:
Salvage Mess2

In the end, everything came off without a hitch.  There were no injuries or mishaps and the scouts played a major role in removing a potential environmental disaster, as well as a dangerous hazard to navigation.

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