State tows derelict vessel from Whidbey coastline

A lot of man-made materials wash up on Double Bluff Beach and the 25 acres of tidelands owned by a nonprofit.

Ropes, clothes, bottles and cans are strewn across the hard sand, tangled with driftwood and eelgrass. So when a 50-foot wooden boat, dilapidated and taking on water, rests upon barnacle-encrusted rocks, residents notice.

An abandoned vessel named “Grumpy” had residents of the water view homes on Double Bluff feeling just like the ship’s namesake.

Disgruntled neighbors were relieved Tuesday morning to see it gone. The state Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, had Grumpy towed to Everett during the night and assumed temporary possession, according to a DNR spokesperson.

“What drives these things is if we feel the boat is in imminent danger of causing a pollution problem or a safety problem,” said Toni Droscher, DNR’s aquatics program communications manager.

DNR knew who owned Grumpy, but had not contacted the owner by press time. The name was not released, but Droscher said the owner had at least one other vessel DNR retrieved. Grumpy’s last known port was Eagle Harbor Marina on Bainbridge Island.

Costs related to the emergency vessel retrieval were not known because DNR had yet to receive billing, though the crew that responded to the derelict vessel is on an emergency contract with the state.

No pollution was observed during the ship’s extraction. Droscher said workers did not observe any sheening, oil or other pollutants.

“We hope that’s the case, that nothing spilled during the process,” she said.

Global Diving and Salvage, which has a  corporate office in Seattle, patched some leaks and pumped water from the vessel Monday evening. Grumpy arrived at its temporary location in Everett around 3 a.m. Tuesday.

The Department of Natural Resources, which is the state’s agency for derelict vessel removal, will post a notice of intent to obtain custody of Grumpy. A 30-day window starts once notice is given for the owner or owners to claim the vessel and the penalties for allowing Grumpy to run aground and require towing.

Once the notice period expires, DNR may scrap the vessel for parts. But judging by the leaks and splintered keel on the boat, the job may be half started.

“Sounds like mother nature got a jump start on that,” Droscher said.

It was first spotted and reported Saturday, March 16 by residents. Mike Moore, a retired officer of the JAG Corps and USNR, reported the wreck to the U.S. Coast Guard after seeing it on a morning beach walk.

When an aircraft carrier cruised by the west side of Whidbey Island, waves from the Navy ship caused Grumpy, built in 1943, to lift and smash on the rocks.

“It bounced Grumpy pretty heavily up and down the beach,” Moore said.

“The last thing we need is that garbage (ship) discharging diesel and rat poison in this water.”

Beached, or rather rocked, Grumpy leaned slightly with its left side facing the sun. While Grumpy’s white and green port and hull got a tan, its starboard poured out water from a seam in its planks. Its anchor was cast from the bow.

A quick look inside Grumpy revealed a mess of items: a generator, a coffee mug with the eagle seal of the United States of America and clothing. Lawn chairs sat strapped to the deck and a radar device protruded just below the U.S. flag.

On the beach near a staircase to Double Bluff was a small wooden dinghy, tied to a piling.

A couple of life vests were on the landing with a Coleman lantern and a soggy leather jacket.


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