Derelict tugboat sinks at pier in San Juan Islands

(SEATTLE) — Crews from Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, Washington Department of Ecology, and the Islands’ Oil Spill Association (IOSA) responded to the sinking of the 80-foot vessel El Capitan at West Sound Marina on Orcas Island on Nov. 18.

Watch standers at Sector Puget Sound command center received notification Nov. 18 from the West Sound Marina that El Capitan, a U.S. Army tugboat built in 1944, was rapidly sinking. A sheen was observed emitting from the vessel when it sank next to the pier in approximately 30 feet of water.

U.S. Coast Guard photo

Coast Guard pollution responders notified IOSA, who responded to the scene and worked with the marina to deploy boom and absorbents. Several trailers of additional boom were brought on site by IOSA as a precaution. The Washington Department of Ecology also responded to assist IOSA. IOSA
monitored the vessel over the weekend.

Additionally, the Coast Guard opened the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and hired Global Diving and Salvage to assess the vessel for any additional threats of pollution. Divers assessed the vessel but did not report any signs of oil discharge.

Crews also performed a shoreline assessment and determined there was no reported impact to the shoreline or wildlife in the area.

The area around the vessel remains boomed as a precaution. IOSA has been monitoring the vessel and marina for additional pollution threats since the vessel sank.

IOSA reported sheening in the marina outside the boom on Nov. 26. The Coast Guard responded to investigate and hired a contractor to remove
and replace any soiled boom.

The exact source of the sheening on Nov. 26 remains under investigation by the Coast Guard. A joint effort is underway with all agencies, the Washington Department of Natural Resources and West Sound Marina to determine future disposition of the vessel.

In November 2020, a joint effort between the Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Natural Resource and San Juan County determined the fuel and oil on board El Capitan posed a significant threat to the environment due to the vessel’s derelict condition.
Contractors removed 590 gallons of various fuels and oils.

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Professional Mariner Staff