Boat fire investigation continues; couple fear ‘total loss’ of their onboard home
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Personnel inspect the damage aboard La Rata Bastarda in the Platypus Marine yard on Tuesday. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — An investigation continued Tuesday into the cause of a Monday afternoon boat fire that dispatched thick, stinky smoke over Marine Drive and the industrial waterfront.

No one was injured in the blaze aboard the 73-foot Seattle-flagged yacht La Rata Bastarda, a steel-hulled, converted fishing boat.

“There’s no indication anything is suspicious, none whatsoever,” Fire Chief Ken Dubuc said, adding it appears the fire started while workers were welding and grinding the vessel’s interior.

When the fire broke out, the boat was being worked on at Platypus Marine Inc., 102 N. Cedar St.

Platypus Marine was repairing the vessel’s hull after it was damaged while the vessel was being lifted by a crane off or onto a transport ship, company Senior Project Manager Darrin Schmitt said.

It was taken to Platypus and blocked off the ground in front of the company’s Commander Building.

Platypus is conducting an investigation into the blaze with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Schmitt said

“At this point, we do not have a known cause for the fire,” he said.

“It’s undetermined at this point. It certainly wasn’t on purpose.”

Kerri and Doug Randles of Eatonville own the boat.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a total loss,” Kerri Randles said late Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s been a lot of places, for sure.”

The couple have lived on La Rata Bastarda for the past five years, she said.

“It’s been our home. It’s a huge loss.

“We think it’s worth at least $350,000, just from what we have into it, but the insurance company could say something totally different.”

Smoke was billowing from the boat by 1 p.m. Monday, when fire crews arrived at Platypus, which repairs yachts and commercial boats and builds steel boats.

Platypus’ facilities were evacuated early Monday afternoon, Schmitt said.

The company’s 60 employees returned to work at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Schmitt said.

Schmitt said two or three employees were working on the boat when the fire broke out.

Dubuc said they were welding and grinding in the forward portion of the boat.

“It’s not uncommon to have heat transfers from metal to various locations,” Dubuc said.

Flames were visible from the cabin at the starboard bow.

City firefighters were joined by units from Clallam County Fire Districts Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in extinguishing the blaze from outside the vessel.

Two Platypus employees then staffed a round-the-clock fire watch.

People were allowed back on the vessel at about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday after its safety was certified by a Seattle marine chemist, Schmitt said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 02. 2013 6:07PM
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