Updated 3:46 p.m.
From Staff Reporter Jayme Fraser:
COUPEVILLE, Whidbey Island — A derelict fishing boat that sank in Penn Cove off Whidbey Island last month was raised to the surface today, a promising development for the island’s world-famous mussel beds, which have been shut down since the boat caught fire and went down.
At about 1:20 p.m., residents on a bluff overlooking the recovery site saw the first part of the stern rise out of the water. The righting and raising of the boat, the task of lifting it out of deep silt — and weeks spent figuring out how to do it — became a bit of an event around here.
A dozen or so people in lawn chairs and sharing binoculars cheering and starting to call family to tell them the news.
Robin Llewelyn was the first to shout out, “It’s up! ”
With the help of a large crane from Seattle, a joint state and federal recovery effort managed, after about 8:30 a.m. today, to right the boat, which had been lying on its side in 25 feet of silt.
The crew then re-rigged a series of chains that run under the boat and are attached to its bow so its decks could be lifted to water level. At 11:30 a.m., members of the recovery team grinned when they learned it was off the bottom and being lifted slowly the 60 feet to the surface.
The Deep Sea sank shortly after it caught fire May 12 and diesel leaks from its tanks have closed both commercial and recreational shellfish harvesting in the area. Washington’s Department of Fish & Wildlife lists Penn Cove as the third most popular shellfish beach in the Puget Sound.
Jared Davids from the state Department of Health said this morning that if all goes as planned today — the ship is successfully raised and contained and no oil sheen is seen in harvesting area — chemical and taste tests could begin as early as Monday. That could mean the area could be reopened as soon as Tuesday morning, Davids said.