We caught our breaths as we returned to Anacortes Marina yesterday afternoon and saw a column of dark smoke rising above the Anacortes waterfront. As we got closer, we realized the smoke was coming from our marina or somewhere very close to it! When we arrived at the parking lot, we found many emergency vehicles filling the area, most with lights flashing. We saw that the smoke was coming from A Dock, which was a bit of a relief, because our boat is on B Dock.
Firemen on the dock and on the Skagit County Sheriff’s boat were pumping water into a burning 54-foot powerboat that was moored just outside the covered slips. The boat was still engulfed in flames and spewing out a large volume of smoke. The wind was carrying the smoke toward our boat, so even though the fire wasn’t threatening our boat, we were concerned about the smoke. Not only did it look ugly, it smelled horrible!
We had left our windows open while we were gone because our boat heats up quickly in the afternoon sun. So we rushed to get the windows closed and make sure our kitties were okay. There was a bit of smoke and a strong smell of burning fiberglass inside, but it didn’t seem dangerous…and the kitties were fine. We closed the windows and kept them closed until later in the evening when the smoke eventually cleared.
I grabbed my camera and we headed back down the dock to find out more about what was happening. We heard that the boat had just returned from a cruise and no one was aboard when the fire broke out around 3 PM. We got there shortly after 4 PM.
The marina staff and others had moved nearby boats so the fire was threatening only the one boat. The firemen continued to spray water and chemicals on the boat, both from the dock and from the Skagit County Sheriff’s boat.
Soon we saw the Global Diving & Salvage crew boat come in with a floating oil containment boom. They used the boom to surround the area around the boat and contain any leaking fluids and residue from the burned boat.
We watched the boat slowly sink and realized that the only way they could put out the fire was to sink the boat. It took quite a while for the boat to fill with water, and it finally sank and the fire was out around 6 PM.
This morning, the burned boat was sitting on the bottom, with an oil-containing boom around it and the surrounding slips. All that was above the water line was the fly bridge and pilothouse. A dinghy mounted to the boat deck behind the pilothouse was also above water. Divers and cleanup crews arrived early this morning to begin the process of mopping up leaked oil and fuel, and prepare the boat to be lifted out of the water and hauled away.
A barge with crane arrived mid-morning. It was a rather tight fit getting into the marina! They positioned the barge in front of the burned boat in the fairway between A and B Docks, and a diver went under the boat to secure straps to lift it. They also began pumping out water so that the weight of the boat would be reduced. We were asked to leave the area when the crane got the boat loaded into the straps and slightly lifted above the water. The tension on the wires holding the boat would be extreme and they were concerned about one of the wires breaking. We didn’t hesitate to leave!
After the boat was floating again, we were told that the hull was intact so the boat can be towed to a nearby facility for the fire inspectors to look it over. They are now pumping out the remaining fuel in the tanks, and then the plan is to tow the boat away.
The boat that burned is a Meridian 540, a 54-foot powerboat. We understand that it is a charter boat and earlier in the day had been cleaned up by the charter company’s cleaning crew to be ready for a new charter due to arrive later in the day. Their charter plans literally went up in smoke!
We also heard that the people returning the charter boat had put about 700 gallons of fuel on just before returning to the dock. Of course, that means there is a greater concern from an environmental perspective, as that is an enormous amount of fuel with the potential to leak.
The firemen, environmental rescue crews, and our marina staff did an outstanding job of getting the fire contained and securing the rest of the marina. Our heartfelt thanks to all of them!