Sportfishing boat raised from Tashmoo, shellfish beds remain closed

The 33-foot boat lay on her side Monday as a team of local first responders worked to contain diesel fuel that drifted across the salt pond and its rich shellfish beds.

Michael Cummo

Updated 3 pm, Tuesday

A large crane on a barge was used to lift a 33-foot Harris sportfisherman from the bottom of Tahmoo Tuesday. Plans are to tow the boat to the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard so that it can be removed from the water.

The boat was discovered lying on her side Monday morning in Lake Tashmoo on the north shore of Martha’s Vineyard. Tisbury firefighters and harbor personnel worked feverishly in a cold, biting wind most of the day Monday to contain diesel fuel that had seeped from the fuel tank.

John Packer of R.M. Packer Co. of Tisbury brought his barge and crane from Menemsha Harbor to Tashmoo late Monday in preparation for the Tuesday salvage operation. A diver went down to secure straps around the hull and the lift got underway.

By Monday afternoon, notices were posted around the pond closing it to all shellfishing until further notice. Tashmoo is connected by a single channel to Vineyard Sound, and is a popular recreational shellfishing area.

The boat, owned by Ronald Barry of Falmouth, was moored in Tashmoo throughout the winter, assistant harbormaster Jim Pepper said, and contained 150 gallons of diesel fuel.

The exact cause of the sinking was not immediately known. However, Mr. Pepper said recent frigid temperatures and the associated freezing and thawing of water, which can create cracks in mufflers, pipes, and other internal components, allowing water to enter a hull, are a likely cause.

On Monday, only the boat’s tower and a portion of its bridge were visible as it lay just south of the Lake Street dock, where crews mounted the containment effort.

Pointing to a small cove downwind of the boat, Mr. Crocker said the fuel appeared to have collected in one area of the pond. He said absorbent pads spread across the water and along the shore that turn pink when fuel is absorbed had remained white, providing some reason to be optimistic about the extent of the contamination.

About 3 pm Monday, Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling and members of the fire department and harbor department were preparing to leave the pond after a frigid day on the water. Mr. Schilling said he received the first call about 10 am.

“Initially, I came down with police and shellfish, and we checked out the area,” Chief Schilling told The Times. “There was no sign of a leak. About 45 minutes later, there was a report that there was an oil spill spreading across Tashmoo.”

Mr. Schilling said a team was quickly organized, and the oil-spill response trailer, which contains booms and absorbent pads, was brought to the scene. The town also notified the Coast Guard, the state Department of Environmental Protection, and the Division of Marine Fisheries. Coast Guard personnel from the mainland later arrived to provide assistance.

“We laid out 1,000 feet of boom,” Chief Schilling said. Absorbent pads were also spread along the shore.

Estimates of the amount of fuel that leaked from the tank, likely from a vent, varied. Chief Schilling said that when he arrived, the fuel sheen covered a significant area of the pond. Emergency responders first surrounded the boat with containment booms and then confirmed there was no more fuel leaking from the boat. They also plugged the vent hole.

“The wind direction was in our favor,” Chief Schilling said, pointing to a cove just north of the boat ramp, “driving it into this area.”

“It’s been a long day,” Chief Schilling said as he sought refuge in his truck.

Ronald Barry, a mechanic at Goodale Construction, said he had owned the boat almost three years. “I’m kind of beside myself,” Mr. Barry told The Times in a telephone conversation late Monday. “I’m looking at my lifesavings sitting there.”

Mr. Barry said there was no way to know what caused his boat to sink until it was raised.

“I’d like to thank everybody who helped, the Tisbury fire department. the police, the Coast Guard and everybody involved who tried to take care of this catastrophe,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.”