High winds, seas bash Fairhaven shoreline, destroy boat in Bellingham

High tides and gusty winds Saturday morning, Nov. 30, eroded a large section of shoreline in Fairhaven and destroyed an unoccupied catamaran-style boat, half of which washed ashore near the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

A couple hundred square feet of shoreline sloughed off into the sea during the weekend storm, said Steve Walker, executive director at the Community Boating Center.

Bellingham experienced sustained wind in the 20s from about 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, with gusts up to 46 mph, while temperatures sat in the 20s but felt like single digits with the windchill, according to National Weather Service data.

The weather carved away rocks, bringing the water about six feet closer to the center’s office and tore into a brick patio. The center is on land leased from the Port of Bellingham.

Before the storm, the port already had plans to spend nearly half a million dollars to improve the shoreline from the Community Boating Center to the Cruise Terminal, said Mike Hogan, public affairs administrator for the port. Designs and permitting for the improvements are scheduled for 2015 and construction is slated for 2016.

“That shoreline is subject to heavy storm events and heavy erosion,” Hogan said. “(We’re) looking at how we could improve that shoreline to protect upland properties. Our engineers were out there taking photos today and we’ll be looking at temporary fixes as well as what the long term options might be.”

One hull of a 20- to 30-foot tan-pink catamaran dragged anchor during the storm and landed on the rocks.

“Over half of the vessel either sunk or was lost in the storm,” Hogan said.

Port staff members who removed what was left of the boat Monday afternoon, Dec. 1, said there was no sign that fuel, if there was any on board, had been spilled in the water.

The unnamed catamaran, which appeared homemade, was one of about 20 vessels tagged by the Department of Natural Resources and the city in mid-July for staying in the same place for more than 30 days, said Steve Sundin of the city’s Planning and Community Development department.

In general, state law says boaters may anchor on state-owned aquatic lands for up to 30 days for free, but after that point they must move along, DNR spokeswoman Jane Chavey told The Bellingham Herald for a story about the notices.

DNR is concerned with removing boats and unauthorized mooring buoys from state-owned aquatic lands where anchors could damage the underwater ecosystem, Chavey said.

“The owner got a second notice that we sent by certified mail, but we haven’t heard anything,” Sundin said. “Last we heard, DNR might have sent him a bill.”

The port was in the process of contacting the owner Monday, Hogan said.