Ivanhoe takes a dip in the Ilwaco mooring basin

Port workers examine the Ivanhoe, an unused groundfish vessel, which sank at its berth in Ilwaco Monday. TIMM COLLINS photo

PORT OF ILWACO - Cleanup crews and divers were at the Port of Ilwaco marina Tuesday morning sopping up about 350 gallons of diesel fuel left after the 58-foot trawler Ivanhoe sank at its berth at the marina Monday morning.

The vessel is sitting on the bottom of the marina with just its cabin above water. On Monday, square "oil rags" were floating around the boat, soaking up the fuel that had been contained by port and U.S. Coast Guard personnel by oil booms earlier in the day. Hydraulic fluid and gear oil probably are seeping from the boat, as well, Harbor-master Jamie Sowers said.

"This is a perfect example of what happens when boat owners aren't attentive to their boats," Sowers said. "They should be checked regularly."

The rapidly sinking boat was reported by a passerby at about 9:30 a.m. Monday, and it was on the bottom about an hour later.

Port Manager Mack Funk said there was no indication why the Ivanhoe sank so suddenly or how much fuel the boat held, but he said "It could be hundreds and hundreds of gallons." The crew from Cowlitz Clean Sweep in Astoria "has done a hell of a good job cleaning up the fuel," Funk said Tuesday morning. "They skimmed the fuel off the surface and pumped 325 gallons of fuel off the boat."

He said a hard-hat diver based in Hood River had been inside the boat early Tuesday morning, talking to land crews through a PA system.

"The Ivanhoe is the first of the groundfish fleet to sink," Funk said.

"Several things could have happened to cause the boat to sink," Funk said. A hole the size of a dime was found in the plug leading to the power source so it could have shorted and burned. "That's one of several theories," Funk said. "After we get it out of the water, we'll be able to see if a through-hole fitting failed."

He said the Ivanhoe "was floating high in the water Friday night. There are three other boats around it that I would have guessed would have gone down before the Ivanhoe."

Managing the many derelict vessels at the port "is an awesome responsibility," Funk said. "We took a bunch out of the water this summer because we were afraid they were sinking, and there are still a lot of them in the water."

For example, he said he had asked the owner of a boat to take it out of the water because he was afraid it would sink.

"He said he'd do it, but so far hasn't," he said. "It takes on water regularly." A steel-hulled boat nearby hasn't been out of the water in five years. "The liability of derelicts is greater than the cost of keeping the vessels," Funk said. "Even if the owners pay moorage, if the boats aren't insured, we're faced with severe consequences."

The Ivanhoe wasn't insured.

Getting the boat off the bottom poses a huge problem for port personnel and could cost thousands of dollars if a crane is hired to lift it. And, it's too heavy for the port's TravLift to move even if it can be lifted.

But Tuesday morning, Funk said the state's Department of Natural Resources' Division of Aquatic Lands will pay for raising the vessel. Thanks to a derelict vessel law passed in the state Legislature about 10 months ago with the help of former Sen. Sid Snyder, the Ivanhoe "shot to the top of the DNR list," he said, and help is on the way.

An Aberdeen resident purchased the vessel from the estate of the late Dick Baird, an Astoria-based fisherman, but hasn't been able to take possession because Baird's estate is in bankruptcy.

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