Business

Got that sinking feeling?

"After refloating this boat that recently sank in 50 feet of water at Bells Beach, Captain John Aydelotte towed it to Cornet Bay.Jim Larsen / staff photoWhen Whidbey Island boaters find themselves in big trouble, they usually call Captain John Aydelotte.Big trouble often means an engine has blown up or the boat has sunk or drifted ashore, and the only way to salvage the situation is to call Aydelotte's Marine Services, located in Cornet Bay near Deception Pass.A lot of times it's the biggest mistake a skipper ever made in his life, Aydelotte said after recently retrieving a boat on South Whidbey that sank in 50-feet of salt water.In this particular case, it was a 27-foot UnaFlite boat owned by Bells Beach resident Dick Beers. He and his family had been working on the boat all summer. We just got it running, Beers stated glumly as he watched Aydelotte's divers, working from the 44-foot salvage boat Able, refloat his boat.They used inflatable devices to bring the boat up from deep water. Then it was towed to shallow water, pumped out, and towed to Cornet Bay. The boat sank because a family friend who is a mechanic forgot to attach the exhaust hose after working on it. Waves came up overnight and flooded the boat with water.Aydelotte doesn't have much competition on the marine salvage business. From Seattle to North Whidbey, that's it, he said of Marine Services. The family-owned business operates three boats. Besides the Able, there is a 21-foot utility boat, and the Able II, a 33-foot, high speed landing craft.Often times, it's a boom or bust business. It's like ambulance runs, Aydelotte said. Nothing for a month and then three in a row. Shortly after salvaging Beers' boat, Marine Services was called to refloat an 18-ton, 47-foot sailboat that was blown onto a beach on Stewart Island in the San Juans.Marine Services has 10 divers and mechanics either working for the company or on call, so they can respond immediately to any watery crisis. It's a pretty amazing crew, and they're pretty fast, Aydelotte said.In many cases, the owner of a salvaged boat figures it would cost too much to repair so he makes a deal with Aydelotte. As a result he has a yard full of used boats for sale, including the one once owned by Beers. It's repairable. We got both engines running, Aydelotte said. We'll find a new owner for it. "

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