City and environment dodge a bullet near Warren Avenue Bridge

Going, going ... gone.

An abandoned 40-foot fishing trawler, the “Vega,” sank at Port Washington Marina on the weekend of Jan. 12-13, but fortunately only spewed a few gallons of oil into the water.

The ship, built in 1943, had been in trouble for some time, said a marina resident, Jim Doll, who lives on a 27-foot sloop moored nearby. Doll took pictures of the boat as it sank and later on Jan. 18 as it was dragged out of the water — in pieces — by Chico Towing.

Doll said the boat’s had a slow leak for a year, and periodically had to be pumped out. The harbor master at the marina, who declined to be identified, provided a recent history:

“This guy brought it two-and-a-half years ago,” he said, identifying the owner as Ralph Wollam. “He took care of it ’til last spring, when he sold it to this (guy) — for $50 down and pay-the-rest whenever. Last May, we kicked (the guy) off because the moorage wasn’t paid.”

“We called the original owner (Wollam), who came out and stripped the boat — portholes, compass, new instruments — he said he had ‘$12,000 in this boat and I’m going to get something out of it.”

The harbor master said “We finally got jurisdiction over (the Vega) a month ago, and put an ad in your paper (The Bremerton Patriot) to give it away — free. We felt there was still something worth saving.”

There were no takers. Meanwhile, marina management had to buy a bigger pump to keep up with water seeping into the boat.

“But something gave way,” said the harbor master. “And we got a call late one night that it was on the bottom.”

He said that was a shame. “The boat still had a good engine.”

The marina hired Chico Towing to cable the sunken vessel to shore and pull it out anyway they could. The boat came out in pieces. It was cut up and has filled more than two 30-yard dumpsters.

Total cost to the marina?

“Ten thousand dollars,” said the harbor master, “counting lost moorage fees, water pumping, and dragging out and disposal.” He wouldn’t say if the Marina will seek financial redress from the owner. However, “The Coast Guard will fine him,” he said.

A Coast Guard Auxiliary member apparently spotted the boat as it sank, and alerted the Coast Guard’s Seattle Office.

Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Tucci, marine environmental response officer, Coast Guard Seattle, said a contractor, Ballard Diving & Salvage, was sent to the site Jan. 13. Tucci said they found a few gallons of motor lube oil on the water, but that was all. The fuel tanks were checked by divers and were empty.

“We’re authorized to clean up the pollution, not save the sunken vessel,” he said.

After the divers checked it out, the Coast Guard left. Cost to the Coast Guard for the limited clean-up was $3,000.

Tucci said the State Department of Ecology passed a law last year requiring abandoned and sunken boats to not only be cleaned up, but also cleared away. “But there was no money in the budget to enforce the law,” he said.

He said fines may be applied against the owner later — depending on final determination of ownership and how well the owner cooperates in paying for clean up. He stressed “the marina is not culpable” and will not be fined.

The reputed owner, Wollam, was last thought to be a resident of Cle Elum, according to the Coast Guard.

Meanwhile, Larry Altose with the state Department of Ecology’s Bellevue office, said they uncovered another possible owner, Douglas Bann of Cocolalla, Idaho. The Coast Guard is tracking down the responsible owner.

Altose said the environment and the city of Bremerton are lucky.

“There was only a slight sheen of oil on the water .... It looks like we dodged the bullet — environmentally — on this one.”

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