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Salvage of fishing boat Bergen to resume Tuesday in Bellingham

The remains of the wreckage of the fishing boat Bergen rest against a rocky shore near Little Squalicum Beach on Monday, March 14, 2016. The boat drifted onto the rocks during last Thursday’s windstorm.
The remains of the wreckage of the fishing boat Bergen rest against a rocky shore near Little Squalicum Beach on Monday, March 14, 2016. The boat drifted onto the rocks during last Thursday’s windstorm. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Efforts to salvage the wrecked fishing boat Bergen and pull its remains out of Bellingham Bay will resume Tuesday, March 15, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Three fishermen were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard early Thursday when the commercial fishing boat broke free from its moorage in a windstorm with gusts of 70 mph.

The 52-foot wooden boat hit a seawall south of Seaview Avenue, after drifting about 300 yards to the west.

The boat, which was built in 1939 and based in Gig Harbor, had been moored near Bellingham Cold Storage, 2825 Roeder Ave., as the crew prepared for a three-month trip to Bristol Bay to fish for black cod.

Getting the heavily damaged boat — much of the hull remained in the water Monday — out of the bay has been challenging on a number of fronts.

“It’s been a complicated effort, with the weather and tide,” Ecology spokeswoman Krista Kenner said.

“Over the weekend Ecology, the U.S. Coast Guard and contractors waited for a weather window to safely salvage the vessel — but it never happened. Although the rain stopped at times, steady 20- to 30-knot wind gusts persisted,” according to an Ecology post about the Bergen running aground.

The other challenge is that the Bergen is in shallow water so a smaller crane barge has to be used. A larger clamshell bucket could take bigger bites of the wreck for removal.

“We’re taking smaller pieces at a time,” Kenner said.

An estimated 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel was on board the boat. As much as 1,000 gallons may have spilled into the bay but a more accurate estimate is expected later.

Divers have removed two fuel tanks. Another two remain in the water but they’re empty. Fuel is no longer spilling into the bay, according to Ecology. Hydraulic fluid and lube oil were recovered from the boat.

A sheen, primarily from the diesel, remained on the water Monday and can no longer be recovered. The sheen will be in the water and possibly near the beach for a few more days depending on temperature, wind and rain.

Global Diving and Salvage is removing the boat. The insurance for the Bergen is paying for the salvage.

Meanwhile, Little Squalicum Beach, which had been closed since Thursday while crews cleaned up debris and fuel, will reopen to the public Tuesday.

It could be closed again if debris that’s dangerous, such as lumber with nails sticking out of it, washes up on the beach again.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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