Salvage crew, officials deal with two wrecked boats

A lengthy operation to deal with a wrecked 53-foot powerboat continues Thursday morning at Seacliff State Beach just south of the concrete ship, SS Palo Alto. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

SEACLIFF STATE BEACH — Officials and clean up crews have their hands full at Seacliff State Beach after two boats, a 30-foot trimaran and a 53-foot motorboat, washed ashore over the weekend. 

A crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hawksbill initially spotted the trimaran —a triple-hulled sailboat — adrift south of Point Santa Cruz, with no one aboard. The boat eventually sank, was pulled ashore and broken apart on the shore Tuesday. 

The motorboat, which was being towed by a salvage company toward Moss Landing, began to break apart in heavy surf and wind and eventually broke free of the tow vessel. 

On Tuesday a crew from Parker Diving Service struggled throughout the day to lug the powerboat, a cabin cruiser, ashore with the aid of a small tractor and a length of stout rope. 

“The vessel that is coming in now was sinking at anchor about a mile east of Point Soquel in about 60-feet of water,” said Scott Kathey, Federal Environmental Representative and Enforcement Coordinator. “These vessels needed to be salvaged out of the National Marine Sanctuary; we don’t need them to be breaking up and strewing debris all up and down the coastline. Debris from a wrecked vessel can be pretty hazardous stuff: You’ve got planks with screws sticking up, you got hazardous materials on board — battery, oil — you name it. So, we’re trying to take these out whole so we can keep all that debris together, get it into a truck and take it to a landfill.”

Kathey said he did not know what led up to both boats breaking up, and that the situation is still under investigation.

"There was no one on either one of these vessels so there was no loss of life or injuries, that we are aware of,” Kathey said.

Kathey added that the owner of any vessel that is abandoned or wrecked on the shoreline of the National Marine Sanctuary shoreline is liable under federal law for the damage that the vessel does, for the response costs, for clean up, for the oil spill and the oil spill response. 

“We are still trying to determine who the legal owners of these vessels are,” Kathey said.

Large numbers of curious onlookers have flocked to the popular beach to watch the salvage operation unfold, many snapping photos and standing slack-jawed at the sight of two wrecked boats cluttering the otherwise tranquil shoreline just south of the concrete ship, SS Palo Alto. 

On Thursday morning, the same salvage crew, after successfully hauling the powerboat into about six-inches of water, was faced with the task of breaking the motorboat up for transport to the landfill. The trimaran, a heap of shattered boat parts was also being hauled off. 

The beach remains open except for a small cordoned off section where the salvage activity is taking place.

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