Crane operators lifted the sunken Aleutian Isle fishing boat to the surface near San Juan Island on Saturday afternoon, but the delicate recovery effort stalled when they were unable to safely access fuel tanks.
Crews removed roughly 775 gallons of oily water mixture from the vessel, according to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard 13th District Pacific Northwest.
“Raising the vessel to the surface is certainly a success, but the complexity of this operation continues to challenge our team,” U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Kira Moody said in the news release.
Workers were unable to completely drain water from the boat in its current position; they need to access the starboard-side fuel tanks and internal spaces to finish. But the remaining water means the boat is too heavy for the crane to lift it further.
A photo shared by the Coast Guard shows the fishing vessel listing to its starboard side, suspended at the water’s surface by four cables reaching into the air.
“The next step will likely involve relocating the crane barge to a more sheltered location where we can fully secure the boat with far less risk to our divers and crew and better protect the environment from any lingering pollution risk,” Moody said.
Crews used booms to contain a sheen on the water as the fishing vessel rose Saturday.
The Aleutian Isle sank Aug. 13 west of San Juan Island, carrying an estimated 2,600 gallons of diesel and oil. All five crew members aboard were rescued by good Samaritans before the Coast Guard arrived.
Within two days, the vessel shifted position on the seafloor and descended to about 200 feet below the surface. It remained there for more than a month as incident commanders brought in specialty dive and vessel recovery equipment and prepared for Saturday’s lift.