“She’s gone,” Michael Brooks said. “It’s a disaster for me. I’m heartbroken. I’ve done everything I can to the best of my ability to restore her. I’m out of resources at this point.”
In the early morning hours of Feb. 3, the 58-foot recreational powerboat Skittigate was taking on water, losing the battle to remain afloat. The experience was not the first for the vessel or its owner, Michael Brooks.
“I owned it probably three or four years; bought it from a retired firefighter who put a lot of money into it,” converting it into a fishing trawler, Brooks said. “It was a 90-year old Canadian Royal Patrol Boat and I wanted to restore it for its historical value.”
The same boat ran aground, keeled over and sank in neighboring Von Geldern Cove Oct. 14, 2018. Assisted by a minus tide three weeks later, Brooks managed to refloat the vessel in the middle of the night and return it to its berth at Lakebay Marina.
Brooks wanted to pull the boat out of the water and put it in drydock at the time but said, “everyone is full in the winter and it’s expensive.” He suspects the bilge pump stopped working after losing electrical power from the shore. “I checked on it weekly, but I can’t be there 24/7. I’m out of resources at this point. I’m talking to DNR about turning it over to them.”
Meanwhile, the boat became wedged underneath the finger dock it was moored to, forcing the dock to rise out of the water and threatening to tear it apart.
Mark Scott, the owner of Lakebay Marina, was reportedly out of the country at the time. His sister, Laura Heather, responded to the evolving crisis posed by the sunken vessel. In an effort to save the finger dock from damaging the rest of the dock and possibly threatening other vessels moored there, power saws were used to cut off portions of the finger dock to relieve the pressure. This was not the first time Heather had responded to reports of sunken vessels during her brother’s winter absence, she said, as it was becoming a regular occurrence.
Days later, two portions of the finger dock were observed floating loose in Mayo Cove and photographed by multiple residents around the cove.
Troy Wood, who manages the Derelict Vessel Removal Program for the Department of Natural Resources, confirmed he spoke with Brooks and sent him an application for the vessel turn-in program, but said that to qualify Brooks must raise it first.
Wood pointed out that the owner refloated the vessel once before in open water without hiring a salvage company. At the marina, he has access to electricity, so raising the vessel there should be easier.
“But because the vessel is on private property, since portions of the Lakebay Marina are leased from DNR, it’s considered private property from the perspective of DVRP,” he said. “Because the marina does not require insurance from its tenants, the marina does not have access to the DVRP.
“Therefore we, unfortunately, because we do not have jurisdiction on private property, we don’t have access to the DVRP account and it will fall back on the property owner to remove the vessel.”
Wood said he is aware of two other vessels that sank there; one was refloated and moved to the private tideland belonging to Lakebay Marina. The covered section is on private tidelands.
“I empathize and would love to go in there and clean that up, but there is due process,” Wood said. “The program has rules to follow; it doesn’t mean we don’t care. This program has a very specific scope and specific realm in which we can work in the jurisdiction.”
“We’re encouraged that our tenant, Lakebay Marina, and the boat owner, can resolve this problem,” said Neal Cox, South Puget Sound district manager for DNR Aquatic Lands. “I know the marina doesn’t require vessels to be insured, but we’ll give them time to work together.”
“If all these things fail,” Cox said, “Lakebay Marina has a bond, a performance security, as part of the lease requirements and DNR may be able to use some of those funds to get the boat up if they can’t figure out a way to raise the boat themselves.”