Wind gusts hit Fidalgo Island hard on Friday, Sept. 17, as the first windstorm of the season sent waves up against houses, made lights flicker across town and dragged boats in the bay.
Just outside of Cap Sante Marina, two sailboats hit the breakwater and sank, but no fuel or other fluids seem to have leaked out of them, according to Port of Anacortes Executive Director Dan Worra.
The boats had been anchored out in the bay, where the ground isn’t great for anchorage, Worra said. The anchors don’t always get the grip they need to keep the boat from moving, so the wind dragged the boats with anchors pulling along.
Both were unmanned at the time and ended up on the rocks. The owners are working with state departments and salvage crews to take care of them, Worra said.
Another vessel had a person on it, who called out for help when his boat started to move. Chris Justice, with TowBoatUS – Anacortes, answered the call.
“We headed out to see if we could help,” he said.
Justice and Capt. Richard Rodriguez headed out of the marina, racing to save the moving vessel. They found the craft, which the owner had temporarily secured to a piling. They hooked onto it and pulled it into the marina.
The boat had moved quite a distance across the bay, all with its anchor down, Justice said.
The boat owner had to release the anchor off the boat (and retrieve it the next day) when Justice and Rodriguez started pulling the vessel into the marina.
The rescue took about 30 minutes, Justice said. It took longer to get the boat tied up to the dock inside the marina.
“The wind was blowing so hard, we were struggling to dock,” he said.
The crews are always standing by to help and that’s definitely true in winds, though it can become too dangerous to go out, especially if a boat is unmanned, Justice said.
Generally, the Port of Anacortes sees four to 10 boats a year that sink or get caught up on the rocks during storms, Worra said.
When it’s windy, port staff members walk around in the marina and check on boats to make sure everything is secured. Sometimes, they help with a dinghy taking on water or a sail that’s come loose, he said.
No boats sank in the marina during the storm.
When a boat does end up on the breakwater from outside the marina, the Port of Anacortes only steps in to remove the boat if it is obviously leaking oil or is blocking the way in and out of the marina.
Normally, when the boat crashes onto the rocks, it’s up to its owner to work with the state Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Ecology, as well as a salvage company, to remove it.
If the owner can’t be found or if the port needs to work with the state to remove a vessel quickly, then it does so and seeks reimbursement from the Department of Natural Resources.
That money comes from derelict vessel funding, which is so important, Worra said.
Removing a vessel can be as little as $40-$400 if it’s a simple removal. Bigger boats or those that are leaking or taking on water can cost upwards of $30,000.