A historic ferry that carried passengers and vehicles in the Pacific Northwest for generations capsized and sank at its moorings along the Columbia River — possibly after someone tampered with the lines.
The vessel, Tourist No. 2, was discovered partially submerged near the Sixth Street Pier in Astoria, Ore., early on July 28. The boat rolled over sometime during the overnight hours, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Nobody was on board at the time.
Capt. Christian Lint, who brought the vessel to Astoria in the mid-2010s, said it came loose in the night and apparently drifted over some submerged pilings. One or more of the pilings breached the hull as the vessel sank lower with the tide, causing it to flood and capsize.
“I got a text message from a crewman who watched the boat who said someone was seen messing with the lines a few hours before this,” Lint said in a phone interview. He said that person was reportedly “diving around and swimming out to the boat and messing with the lines.”
This same person was reportedly seen running from the area naked, Lint said, adding that the person appeared to be homeless. Discarded clothes were later found on the beach.
It’s not clear if the Coast Guard is investigating the incident. As of mid-August, the service was overseeing the ongoing salvage effort performed by Global Diving & Salvage with help from local contractors, according to a spokesperson.
Salvors were still working on Aug. 9 to raise the vessel from the Columbia River. The ferry had no more than 500 gallons of fuel on board. Lint said he fueled the vessel in the weeks beforehand in preparation to sail it to a permanent berth about 80 miles upriver in Portland, Ore.
Crews placed boom around the vessel and used sorbents to remove any fuel from the water. The Coast Guard authorized spending up to $200,000 from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to cover remediation costs.
The episode likely marks the end for Tourist No. 2, which was built in 1924 to carry vehicles and people across the Columbia River between Astoria and Megler, Wash. The Army later operated the vessel as a minelayer during World War II, and after the war it returned to ferry service.
The opening of the Astoria-Megler Bridge in 1966 eliminated the need for ferry transportation, and Tourist No. 2 later went into service in Pierce County, Wash., where it operated until 1996. At that point, Argosy Cruises began using the vessel for sightseeing tours in Seattle under the name Kirkland.
Lint acquired the vessel in 2010 after a fire in the engine room caused modest damage. He sold it to the Astoria Ferry Group around 2017, although the group later defaulted and attempted to return the vessel to him. That history, he suggested, means ownership of the vessel is murky.
Tourist No. 2 was listed for sale at $10,000 when it capsized. Lack of berthing was a key impediment to finding a buyer, Lint said. The vessel also required extensive repairs to operate it as a floating event space.
Tourist No. 2 survived two winters at the site off the Sixth Street Pier, and Lint had told people in Astoria the vessel would never sink. He is still in disbelief.
“My first thought was, there is no way it could have gone down that fast,” he said, adding that the weather was calm at the time. “My next thought was that someone had done something to it.”