ILWACO — On the night of Aug. 2 the narrow Ilwaco channel proved it can endanger anyone when the 47-foot tuna boat Koko got tangled up in a trap of rotten old pilings and eventually overturned.
Bad weather not in the forecast caught up with the Koko and skipper Harvey Cosky at about 10 p.m. last Friday night as the vessel was returning from a successful albacore trip. Even with decades of local experience, the skipper and his veteran one-man crew couldn’t help being blown off course in the murky conditions.
Personnel at nearby U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment were unable to get to them or launch a helicopter because of the weather. The two men were rescued just after first light at about 6 a.m. Saturday, when Ilwaco residents could hear a helicopter’s engine reverberating through the fog over the wreck. Though neither man was harmed, their vessel overturned against the pilings in the channel’s swift-moving current.
Global Diving & Salvage Inc. out of Seattle brought tugs, a platform barge with a crane on it and a couple of support boats with divers in the water to try to free the vessel on Sunday.
As dozens of spectators on the shore watched and took photos, the salvage crew worked for hours to hoist the boat. Although the hull reportedly was damaged by a piling while it was in the process of being extricated, a photo posted online Monday showed the Koko slightly listing to one side but floating on its own.
Pending a full assessment of accident damage and insurance negotiations, there are indications the vessel may be restored to service.
The Ilwaco channel is a narrow waterway linking the mooring basin with the main stem of the Columbia River. It requires frequent maintenance to maintain navigational depth. Old wooden pilings driven into the sediment just along the channel’s edge allow little leeway for storm-driven boats.