A large fishing boat went aground at Lagoon Point on Tuesday morning at 4 a.m., about an hour before the sun rose to create a glorious day on Whidbey Island.
The boat, named the Neahkahnie, wasn’t leaking oil or gas and did not appear to be an environmental threat, according to the Coast Guard.
Early Tuesday a Coast Guard helicopter flew over and soon a boat, the CGC Swordfish, arrived to watch over the site. Later, at 9:30 a.m., a smaller Coast Guard boat circled the Neahkahnie, apparently to make certain there was no damage.
The 97-foot boat grounded about 200 yards north of the populated portion of Lagoon Point, its bow settled gently upon the small rocks while the stern stuck out into Admiralty Inlet.
Crewmen kept a low profile, but occasionally two were seen walking about. One walked to the bow when a Global Diving & Salvage representative arrived and shouted down to him the escape plan.
A tug boat was due to arrive at 3 p.m., said the man aboard the vessel who identified himself only as Mike. High tide was due at 4:15 p.m., and during that period an effort would be made to tow the vessel back to sea.
One of the few people watching and taking pictures on the beach at 8:30 a.m. was familiar with the Neahkahnie, which is no longer a fishing boat, but instead is used as a tender.
Ray Kellison of Coupeville is a commercial fisherman whose boat, the Alasea, is moored in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. He plans to leave in five days for Dutch Harbor.
Kellison said one of his crew members and the crew member’s father both worked on the Neahkahnie in its fishing days. Built around 1976, it worked Alaskan waters before the owner sold its fishing license.
Today, Kellison said, the boat works for Icicle Seafoods, bringing pen-raised salmon from the San Juan Islands to Seattle. The boat is equipped for such work, including a big green suction tube that brings the penned salmon aboard.
The grounding of the boat didn’t cause much of a disturbance for Lagoon Point residents. Several said they were awakened by a Coast Guard helicopter at 5:30 a.m.
“It looks like it made a wrong turn,” said Barry Rose, who just moved to the area from New London, Conn. “It’s quite a surprise.”
A car full of four Coast Guard incident management officers arrived early to assess any damage. “It’s not leaking fuel, and they’re being really proactive,” said Paul Schachtener, one of the officers.
It was not immediately known why the boat went aground. One resident reported fog in the early morning, while others theorized the captain may have fallen asleep. The Coast Guard had not yet made a determination.