The M/V Chilkat, which came to rest on the bottom of the Guemes Channel during a windstorm two weeks ago, was lifted up by a crane and placed onto a barge Wednesday afternoon.

The retrieval drew a crowd early Wednesday morning, though many had left by the time the boat was pulled up in an hours-long process.

It was raised from the water so quietly that a few spectators who there to see it actually missed the boat breaking the surface. The vessel was eventually lowered onto a barge just before 4 p.m.

Troy Wood, derelict vessel removal program manager for the state Department of Natural Resources, said that divers wrapped chains around the sunken ship on Tuesday and prepped it to be lifted Wednesday.

A hydraulic pipe was used to get the chain underneath the vessel, he said.

Concerns about the current made them wait until slack tide before lifting it onto the barge.

The M/V Chilkat, built in 1957, was once the first ferry of the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Global Diving and Salvage was the company contracted to remove the vessel. The barge crane D.B. General is owned by a Vancouver, B.C., company.

The estimated removal cost is $800,000, Wood said. That does not include deconstruction, which is likely what will eventually happen.

The vessel needed to be removed because of its proximity to the Guemes Island Ferry terminal, Wood said. The M/V Chilkat crashed into it before sinking during the Jan. 12 storm.

“They were afraid with the strong currents in the area, it might drift into the ferry lane, which would obviously cause major delays or safety issues,” Wood said.

The Coast Guard did not allow the boat to be towed because of holes in its hull.

Shortly after the vessel sank, divers inspected it for leaking fuel or oil. They found very little to remove, as the vessel was decommissioned with sealed vents, Wood said. However, some oil trapped in its roof released into the water as it was lifted.

“It was just a little bit that they can’t get rid of, and that’s why they have the boom out there,” Wood said.

Wood said Natural Resources has removed over 120 sunken vessels since July 2019. Natural Resources has flagged 288 vessels as potentially abandoned.

 Richard Walker contributed to this report.

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