Century-old derelict tugboat brought to Port Townsend — what’s next?
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The 100-year-old tugboat Chickamauga is brought into the Port Townsend Boat Haven on Friday. —Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A 100-year-old derelict tugboat was towed to the Boat Haven on Friday afternoon, where it will be stored for the time being.

The Chickamauga, a 70-foot wooden tugboat that sank Oct. 2 while it was moored at Eagle Harbor Marina on Bainbridge Island, will be stored in a remote part of the Boat Haven until Feb. 18.

That is the last day the boat’s owner, Anthony R. Smith, can appeal the state Department of Natural Resource’s impoundment of the vessel.

The state has no plans to restore the vessel. If its impoundment is not contested, DNR will arrange for its disposal or demolition.

In the meantime, it is conducting a cultural resource review to assess the vessel’s historical significance, and museums or historical preservation organizations interested in the old tugboat can contact DNR for more information at dvrp@dnr.wa.gov.

The Chickamauga had about 400 gallons of diesel fuel and 10 gallons of lube oil on board when it sank.

The state Department of Ecology and the Coast Guard oversaw the cleanup, and Smith reportedly still owes the Coast Guard for the cleanup.

DNR took custody of the Chickamauga on Jan. 16 after Smith failed to remove it, said Toni Droscher, DNR’s aquatic resources division communications manager.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Jan. 15 charged Smith with one count of theft in the first degree, one count of causing a vessel to become abandoned or derelict and one count of discharge of polluting matters into state waters.

The Chickamauga had become a nuisance at the Eagle Harbor Marina, according to harbormaster Doug Crow.

“We couldn’t do anything as long as it was there,” he said.

“It was taking up a 70-foot slip that couldn’t be used for anything else.”

Crow said the marina could have taken ownership, but that “would mean we’d be responsible for getting rid of it.

“I’m glad that it’s gone and that it’s not our problem anymore,” he said.

Crow said Smith owed the marina about $10,000 in back rent.

Crow said he didn’t know whether Smith had visited the marina since the boat sank.

“I don’t know where he is. I heard he was up in Alaska,” Crow said. “No one here has seen him.”

Crow estimated that the vessel would need at least $500,000 in repairs to make it seaworthy.

Port of Port Townsend Director Larry Crockett said the rent for the vessel has not yet been determined and will be based on its size and weight.

DNR will pay for all rental and/or demolition costs.

The demolition of derelict vessels could present a business opportunity, according to Crockett.

The port would need to build a concrete pad large enough for the boat and the demolition process to keep toxic materials from seeping into the gravel, Crockett said.

The port would not run the business but would lease the space to an entrepreneur.

“Someone could put together a nice little business,” he said.

“There are a lot of these old boats that need to be demolished, and there are no facilities around here that provide that service.”

Deputy Port Director Jim Pivarnik said such a business could accommodate boats up to 130 feet long and weighing 330 metric tons.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 01. 2014 6:12PM
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