PORT ANGELES — A Coast Guard crew rescued three men unharmed from a burning 48-foot sport fishing yacht in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, snuffing the blaze and towing the vessel a short distance before it reflashed and sank, a Coast Guard spokesman said.
The blaze 5 miles east of Port Angeles on the power-driven recreational vessel R & D was reported at 5:53 p.m. Tuesday, said Petty Officer Michael Clark of 13th District headquarters in Seattle.
The man on board who reported the fire to Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound had to use a cellphone after the yacht lost power, Clark said.
Clark said Wednesday the R & D was a half-mile from shore and 5 miles east of Port Angeles when the blaze was reported.
A rescue crew staffing a 45-foot response boat from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles at Ediz Hook arrived at 6:15 p.m. and transferred the vessel occupants — none of whom have been identified — to the Coast Guard craft.
One man was treated for potential smoke inhalation, Clark said.
Two crew members boarded the vessel and went to the engine room with a fire extinguisher. They also pumped sea water onto the flames with a response-boat discharge hose.
When the flames diminished, the response boat attempted to tow the vessel to Port Angeles on the chance it might be salvaged, but a short time later the flames resurged, Clark said.
“They had to break the tow, and stayed on scene,” he said, adding the R & D was still about half-mile off shore.
“They did what they could to secure it and ensure no other vessels were transiting.
“The vessel burned and sank.”
The boat occupants were taken to the Port Angeles Boat Haven marina in Port Angeles.
Clark said there was no fuel sheen or observable oil on the water when the crew left the vessel.
“If there is observable pollutant, we will work with our partner agencies and commercial salvage to contain a potential risk to the environment,” he said.
An MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter was dispatched from the Ediz Hook base but turned back after it was determined it was not needed, Clark said.
The occupants of the R & D may have been from Bremerton, Clark said.
The state Department of Licensing did not return calls for information Wednesday regarding the boat registration.
The fire remains under investigation, Clark said.
“The fast action to call for help was essential to their survival,” Petty Officer Alexander Polyak, watchstander at Sector Puget Sound command center, said Wednesday in a Coast Guard press release.
“Having a reliable means of communication, appropriate for your location and distance off shore, can mean the difference between life and death. We encourage all mariners to not only have cell phones, but make sure you have a VHF-FM marine-band radio to ensure communication capability in the event of an emergency.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].