Sunken boat lingers in Wiscasset harbor

Posted:  Monday, January 29, 2018 - 8:45am

State and local authorities are monitoring a World War II-era minesweeper for possible fuel leakage. The 66-foot wooden boat sank at its mooring in Wiscasset harbor during a blizzard Jan. 4.

Chris Morrison of Wiscasset owns the boat. Wiscasset Police Chief Jeffery Lange said the Maine Marine Patrol office in Boothbay Harbor is assisting with the continuing investigation of the boat’s sinking. “They’ve been in contact with the vessel’s owner,” Lange told the Wiscasset Newspaper Jan. 24.

Lange said Marine Patrol Officer Chad Webster recently used a drone to survey the water where the boat sank. “He informed me he’d discovered some evidence of oil on the surface of the water.”

Lange wasn’t sure what the Maine Department of Marine Resources was planning or what the recovery effort might entail. “They informed me they were in touch with Mr. Morrison who estimated the boat had between 30 and 40 gallons of diesel fuel on board when it sank.”

“I contacted (Morrison) on Jan. 16 to hear if he’d made any progress as far as the recovery effort was concerned. He got back in touch with me the following day and said he’d gotten estimates but hadn’t hired anyone yet,” continued Lange.

“Officer Levon Travis, the harbor master, is concerned with the fuel and any potential impact it might have if it were to leak and be carried onto the clamming flats.”

Lange said the U.S. Coast Guard in Boothbay Harbor had also been notified of the boat’s sinking. The boat sank in about 30 to 40 feet of water off the former Mason Station power plant on Birch Point; its sail mast has been visible at low tide.

Webster said Jan. 25, he’s been monitoring the area around the boat on a regular basis.

“It went down on the outer edge of the town’s mooring field and is not anywhere close to the river channel. The Coast Guard doesn’t believe it poses any immediate hazard to navigation but we’d still like to see it taken care of before the boating season begins.” Webster said some oil had initially been seen on the water surface during the drone monitoring. “For now it doesn’t appear to be leaking any fuel but we’re continuing to keep an eye on it.”

“We’re working with the boat’s owner to figure out what needs to happen next. The Coast Guard is ... most concerned about the coming boating season,” he added. “They’ve suggested possibly putting buoys around it as a way of alerting boaters to its presence.”

The boat was built in England as a minesweeper. At war’s end, vessels of this design were sometimes converted to commercial use as fishing trawlers. It had been moored in Wiscasset harbor for several years.