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Derelict tug washes up in Useless Bay

"A stormy Sunday brought this unwanted visitor to Useless Bay. Efforts were still under way Tuesday to remove the derelict 80-foot tugboat.Jim Larsen/staff photoWill somebody get this tug off my beach?A beached 80-foot tugboat is a rare problem, but it happened Sunday at Useless Bay. And as of Tuesday nobody was quite sure what to do about it.Normally you just go to the owner and say, 'Get this thing out of here,' said Coast Guard Lt. Andrew Tucci on Tuesday morning. The steel-hulled tug washed up on the Useless Bay beach Sunday, and Tucci was one of several officials who visited the vessel Monday.Badly weathered paint on the bow identifies the tug as the Sea Way 10, and Tucci estimates it was built in the early '60s. The vessel has been a problem all summer, but not on Whidbey Island. It had been illegally tied to an Army Corps of Engineers buoy in Shilshole Bay in Seattle.The Corps tried to track down the owner, but the last company went out of business years ago, Tucci said. It's probably a dead trail by now, but folks are still looking into it.Shilshole's problem drifted away early Sunday morning when a strong wind kicked up the seas. Hours later, residents along Shore Avenue on Useless Bay saw a strange sight.We saw it coming in, said Gordon Anderson, who lives west of where the boat beached itself. I didn't know it was unmanned. I thought it came in to get out of the storm, but he just kept coming.Dave Haworth lives almost in front of what he calls our new adornment. He said he was one of the first to call the Coast Guard. I kind of like it, he said. I hope they leave it.That likely won't happen, but the boat's presence isn't considered an environmental danger. Tucci said the tug was carefully inspected Monday for any hazardous materials and nothing was found. The fuel tanks had been drained and all fuel was gone from the engine, which contained no oil. The batteries remained but the acid had been removed, leaving only lead. There were no paint, strippers, acetone or other items commonly associated with old vessels.The tug is completely empty, like it was prepared for legal disposal, Tucci said. There was no hazardous material.Had there been hazardous material, Tucci said the Coast Guard would have been responsible for disposing of the vessel. As things stood Tuesday morning, that responsibility rested with the Army Corps, he said.Neighbors say an effort was made Monday to tow the tug off the beach. A Crowley Maritime vessel launched a small Zodiac boat and men attached a cable to the tug. Haworth said the large Crowley vessel pulled hard but the effort failed. The cleat snapped off the deck of the tug and that was that, he said.On Tuesday morning there was more activity. Four people in red suits climbed out of a boat marked Survey and inspected the tug. Haworth thought they were from the National Marine Fisheries Service.Removing the tug obviously won't be an easy job. A hard wind blew it in. It's pretty well stuck, Haworth said.The Coast Guard's Tucci said the boat can be reached at low tide but warns people against trying to board it. There's not a thing out there anybody could possibly want but there's lots of places to get hurt, he said. All items of any possible value were removed. It's very dangerous, with rusty, open hatches, Tucci said, adding that the Coast Guard planned to send more people out Tuesday to secure the vessel. "

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