WARRENTON — Western Skies, the 70-year-old fishing boat that sank in the Warrenton Marina this summer, has gone to the big boat slip in the clouds.
No one at the demolition mourned its passing.
“It’s a relief,” Harbormaster Jane Sweet said as she watched excavators pull the 43-foot-long, wooden-hulled boat to pieces Thursday afternoon. “One headache down.”
The once-seaworthy commercial fishing boat has been a lot of things over the decades, but in recent years it has mostly been a bottomless pit, gobbling up the marina’s time and resources.
Without an active owner around, marina staff have had to babysit the aging hulk, rushing down to check on it after storms, spending hours clearing away trash the previous owner left behind. No one has been paying moorage fees, so the boat also represents a loss of potential revenue.
When the boat sank at its slip in July, it leaked more than 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the water. The resulting cleanup and testing occupied Sweet and her staff for weeks afterwards.
Now, Western Skies is — slowly, surely — getting turned into a debris pile. Mike Olson, assistant harbormaster, planned to salvage some features like the mast and the porthole windows, but not much else.
On Thursday, Olson said demolition was going smoothly, though they had to adjust a few things as they went along.
“It’s a learning curve, for sure,” he said.
Crews towed Western Skies from its slip to one end of the marina Thursday morning. They had to call in a second excavator after a single machine wasn’t enough to haul the boat out of the water. Battered by time, the elements and years of neglect, it listed to one side and started falling apart as the machines attempted to haul it up farther.
Once Western Skies was mostly out of the water, the work of taking her to pieces proceeded quickly. Demolition continued through Friday.
Marina staff rarely do this kind of work — breaking down a boat the size of Western Skies is just as tricky as it sounds — but Sweet was determined to begin moving derelict and abandoned boats out of the marina. She finalized a seizure and sale process over the summer so the marina can take over abandoned and derelict boats and get rid of them.
With the demolition of Western Skies and a closed-bid auction for seven other abandoned boats that ended Thursday, Sweet is close to having a marina filled only with working vessels. Fingers crossed.
The marina could face another Western Skies-like situation soon, though. Master Chris, a much larger but also ownerless former commercial fishing vessel, was up for auction. It attracted little if any interest from bidders.
Though the 72-foot-long vessel is bobbing happily in the marina right now, it is fast approaching the same level of disrepair as Western Skies, Sweet said.