PORT TOWNSEND — After 20 months high and dry, a fishing trawler seized in a February 2001 cocaine bust touched water again Thursday and is on its way to a new home in a Port of Port Townsend shipyard.
The 69-foot Western Wind will be hoisted out of the water today, Port Operations Manager Ken Radon said.
The government will be paying the Port $51.75 — 75 cents per foot — each day to store the vessel in the shipyard off Sims Way, Radon said.
The vessel had been in dry-dock in Port Angeles since March 2001, a month after 5,538 pounds of cocaine were found in its holds on Feb. 21, 2001, by a U.S. Coast Guard crew near the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Guardsmen from the Port Townsend-based cutter Osprey were involved in the boarding of the vessel.
U.S. Customs Service officials said after the bust the trawler would either be returned to owner Philip John Stirling, 55, of Victoria, or be forfeited to the agency.
Stirling sometimes works as an informant for Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
In the case of the Western Wind, he agreed to serve as an informant for witness protection and a $1 million payment while brokering a cocaine deal between a British Columbia chapter of the Hells Angels biker gang and a Colombian drug cartel.
Stirling was to pilot the trawler to Colombia, pick up the drugs and return to Victoria to meet the buyers.
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