ILWACO — It takes a village to raise a boat. On April 17, dozens of workers arrived by truck, boat and barge to help remove a derelict 79-year-old tuna troller from the Port of Ilwaco marina.
Abandoned in Ilwaco
The Lihue II was more or less an orphan. Its owner abandoned it at the port in mid-November 2017. On Nov. 18, it sank during a storm. Fast action by port employees, the Coast Guard and environmental agencies kept the boat from spilling much oil, but Port Manager Guy Glenn Jr. still had to figure out what to do with it.
With help from the state Department of Natural Resources Derelict Vessel Program, Glenn gained legal custody of the boat, and arranged to have Global Diving and Salvage, a Seattle company that has done a lot of work for the state, remove it.
Getting rid of an old boat isn’t cheap — Glenn said it cost about $188,000. While the Derelict Vessel Program will likely pay about 90 percent of the cost, the cash-strapped port will still have to pay at least 10 percent. However, the boat was taking up two slips that can be rented to paying customers during the upcoming fishing season. It was also a potential environmental and safety hazard, and a temptation for unsavory types who like to forage for scrap metal.
So long, Lihue
Last Tuesday morning, Salvage Master Kris Lindberg paced on the dock in orange rain gear and a sticker-covered hardhat, occasionally giving orders through his two-way radio. Below the murky water, a diver was unfurling enormous yellow straps behind him as he swam underneath the Lihue. A brawny man in a wetsuit and a hardhat treaded water next to the badly listing boat, working to secure the yellow straps to huge iron hooks hanging from a crane.
Once, the boat was hospital white with neat black trim and a red keel. The keel still bore a red stain, but most of the paint had long since been supplanted by rust and slick green moss.
A few workers in a little boat bobbed around the perimeter, providing supplies and managing the orange plastic boom that had been placed around the boat to keep oil from spreading. A couple stories above them, more workers watched from the deck of the enormous barge supplied by subcontractor Advanced American Construction. And on the deck of the barge sat a royal blue Millenium crane that towered over everything else in the Port of Ilwaco.
A ring up bubbles formed on the surface of the water, and moved gradually toward the dock. A black diving helmet rigged with flashlights emerged from the water, and then the diver popped up and climbed ladder onto a neighboring charter boat, where still more workers greeted him with a towel. It was time to lift the Lihue.
Hole in the hull
When the Lihue went down, it filled with water. Now, it all had to come out. Workers on the dock began feeding hoses in through the cabin and other openings, and fiddling with a row of diesel-powered pumps on the dock. At a signal from Lindberg, the pumps roared to life and began spewing hundreds of gallons of filthy bilgewater. As the boat emptied out, it gradually began to rise.
The men turned the pumps off, and several of them climbed onto the surfaced boat. They moved all over its slimy surfaces, removing hoses, checking and double-checking the hooks and straps, inspecting every component of the old boat to make sure it could withstand the stress of being airborne.
Finally, about an hour later, they were satisfied that the old wooden boat was ready to fly.
By air and by sea
Barges aren’t exactly compact. Because the operators had to park the barge at the end of the dock, they couldn’t get the crane arm close enough to lift the Lihue straight out of her slip. So before the Lihue could fly, she had to make one last, brief sea-voyage. The crane operator slowly backed the boat out of its slip into the main channel, then swung the boom around, pulling the Lihue up next to the other side of the barge. High above, a row of men grabbed yellow lines and stood in a row, leaning back at 45 degree angles to the ground in an epic-game of tug-o-war. They grimaced and strained as they pulled her closer to the side of the barge.
In the water, the hulking wooden boat seemed very big. But as the workers hoisted her into the air, she lost all sense of scale. Floating above the marina, the once-stately Lihue suddenly looked like an old-fashioned toy boat.
A few boats putted out to watch as the Lihue rose into the air, climbing until she was several yards above the deck of the barge. People in the marina stopped what they were doing to record the proceedings on their phones, and the crew of a Coast Guard boat watched from the harbor.
Many wondered if the old, water-logged tub might splinter under her own weight once the workers lifted her up, but she held. There were no ominous cracks or groans; not even a deluge of water streaming off the hull.
The crane operator retracted the arm until the troller was hovering over the deck, dwarfing the orange-vested workers charged with guiding her into place. Slowly, slowly, the crane operator lowered her down. She settled softly onto the deck.
Using a crane is “actually pretty common for a vessel of that size that’s on its side,” said Katie Stewart, a Global Diving and Salvage spokeswoman. “The only way to get the water out is to lift it upright.”
Stewart said the nasty weather earlier in the month forced Global to postpone the operation a couple of times. By the time the weather was good enough to move the boat safely, the barge was almost out of time before it had to move on to another job. Aside from that, Stewart said, the operation went smoothly. Global found a small amount of asbestos on the boat, which raised the cost of disposal by a few thousand dollars, Glenn said.
After nearly 80 years on the water, the Lihue was consigned to spend her final moments on land. Crews removed steel and other metal components for recycling. Then, Stewart said, the rest of the old wooden tuna troller was disposed of as construction debris in a landfill.