Saturday, February 22, 2014

February 21, 2014 - Marina Fire!

Friday, March 21:       Click here for the investigation story

Friday, February 21:

This is such a tragedy, and it happened in our own backyard!  Friday Feb 21 at about 4:00PM fire broke out on a single boat on a smaller dock in Shelter Bay.  The fire quickly spread from the initial boat to almost all of the other boats on J-dock.  I think about 12 boats, all between 40'-50' were destroyed.  Several boats were saved by one of our friends, along with several others who got out there in Rob's 12' dinghy and cut dock lines and pushed/pulled boats out of harms way.  All told, Rob, Pat, and Bob saved 5 boats from the fire, and prevented at least 1000 gallons of diesel from hitting our waters.  Oh, you can smell the diesel when you are down by the marina.  There are oil containment booms all over our harbor.  We were going to go boating today, but no boats can come and go until this mess is cleaned up.  Our marina is officially closed until further notice.

Fire consumed J-Dock (red circle).  Fortunately J-Dock is quite small compared
 to some of our docks.  The marina has 320 slips.  Counting all of the private
 docks there are 400+ boats in Shelter Bay.
I knew quite a few of the boats that were destroyed.  In fact, 3 of them were regular customers of mine (I'm a marine electrician), so I've spend considerable time on several of these boats.  One of my other customers just moved his boat off J-Dock dock so it could be hauled out for new bottom paint.  He did this 5 hours before the fire!!!  I was the harbormaster for this marina at one time, so I know it, and the boats/owners well.  A marina fire is every boat owner's worst nightmare!

Thankfully, the winds were light at the time of the fire.  If this had happened just a few days ago when it was blowing 30+ knots I'm quite confident the fire would have spread to many other docks since the winds would have pushed burning boats all around the marina, and quickly fanned the fire into an even bigger inferno.

For the most part I think I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.....

See the burning boat?  It drifted over to the next dock, almost setting it on fire.

Not much left of Rick's wonderful Krogen 42.  I had been in this boat several times.
The owners are neat people who spent considerable time on a previous sailboat
exploring the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, and Central America.
This is what a Krogen 42 is supposed to look like....

The fire almost spread to the next dock.  Here is where a burning boat drifted
and torched a dinghy, and some canvas.  Fortunately the fire boat was able to
stop this before it took out another 20 boats!

Dennis' boat suffered some serious damage.  The windows are all damaged.  Fiberglass
 is damaged.  Melted plastic, scorched teak railing, melted port holes.  Lots of damage.
I was going to be installing a new autopilot in this boat, starting next week.
This is one of the boats that was "saved".  The heat was intense even though
I don't think the flames ever touched it.
Scorched teak railing on my customer's boat.
Melted navigation light and damaged fiberglass on the Tolly 43.

Saturday Feb 22, 2014 update:

This afternoon they started pulling boats out of the water.  It's a slow process.  Diver's have to go down and somehow get straps under the boats and connected to the crane.  They then slowly lift the boats and let the water drain out.  There is oil boom around the area to contain any diesel or oil that may leak out along with the water.  There is an oily sheen around the entire Shelter Bay basin.  It is being contained within Shelter Bay however, so that's good.  This afternoon they got two boats lifted out and placed on a barge.

All that is left of a 43' Tollycraft. I feel so bad for Bill, and his family.
Bill is one of the people that wrote a "character reference" letter for me, which
was one of the requirements for obtaining my US Coast Guard  Captain's License.
Total devastation!  Burned to the waterline.
A Tolly 43 like the one that was destroyed.

What's left of Pat's Navigator 50.  
This is what a Navigator 50 should look like.

Sunday Feb 23, 2014 update:

Not much happened in the boat removal department today.  Not one boat was removed.  The barges had to be re-positioned, and new divers were brought in for the day. They got all ready to lift one boat by late afternoon, but then after about an hour of it hanging a few feet up off the bottom they set it back down.  Maybe it was too weak to lift?  Maybe it was spilling diesel?  I just don't know.  The crews were busy cleaning up debris and oil from the water.  There is a LOT of cleanup to do here in Shelter Bay.

Getting ready to lift the 3rd boat.  Jeff's 48' Navigator.
An hour later it was back on the bottom.  Hmmmm????

Cleaning up the debris and oil.  Yuck, what an environmental mess.

Monday February 24, 2014 Update:

They lifted the boat they attempted to yesterday.  It was in danger of breaking apart according to of the cleanup crew I spoke with so they set it back down for the night.  They had to re-strap it today and try again.  They had no problems today lifting it out.  Two boats were pulled from our oily waters today.  I believe they have two more boats still underwater.

A Tolly 44.  This is one of the few people on J-Dock that I didn't know personally.
This picture is of the Tolly 44 in the above picture.

This fire really hit the Tollycraft fleet hard.  3 Tolly's burned to the waterline and sunk (a 40', a 43' and a 44').  A 4th Tolly (a 43') was damaged by the intense heat but cut loose and moved away from J-Dock before the flames reached her.  There were also two Navigator's burned and sunk in the fire (a 48' and a 50'), along with one Bayliner 43'.  A Krogen 42' was completely gutted but did not sink.

Cleanup crews have a mess to deal with.
Bits of debris like this are floating all around our marina.
Finally lifting the 48' Navigator.
48' Navigator
Jeff's 48' Navigator is unrecognizable.  I installed a galvanic isolator  and
made some repairs to the bonding system on this boat several years ago
after it suffered some  major corrosion damage.   It was a very nice boat.
A 48' Navigator.

The barge is filling up.  I think they have two more boats to raise?

Kiro News somehow found my blog and called to ask if they could use some of my pictures.  Their story is here:

Click here for Kiro's "My Northwest" news page

Click here for a video from King5 TV about the cleanup

Tuesday February 25, 2014 Update:

The barge full of boats left this morning.  Apparently it is going to go to a big secure storage lot where they are going to lay all the boats out just like they were in the marina.  Then they get to start sifting through the mess to sort out how this all happened.  A new barge arrived late this morning but I missed the first boat coming out of the water today. It was the 40' Tollycraft.  They raised it today while I was off working on another boat.  

Gary's 40" Tolly.  This was a nice Sport Fisher and was sometimes
 used as a charter boat. 

Gary's boat.  She was a pretty one.  I've done some misc. electrical work
on this boat over the past 3-4 years.  What a shame to see it gone.

They lifted the last boat from the bottom late this afternoon.  It was a 43' Bayliner.  This boat hasn't been on J-dock very long.  I've chatted with the owner a few times, but I don't think I ever got his name.  He seemed to be on it quite a bit working on projects.  He's a very nice man.

The last boat to be pulled from the water.  A 43' Bayliner aft cabin.

A Bayliner 43 like the one above.

It was a beautiful day in Shelter Bay today.  So much better than rain and
snow.  It looks like a tough enough job cleaning up this mess, but to have
to do it in the snow and rain must be a real drag.

I chatted with Rick today, who lost his Krogen 42 in the fire.  He was in surprisingly good spirits.  He's obviously very shaken and upset, but he's not dwelling on the "down" side.  He and his wife were planning to cruise to Alaska on their boat.  They have been working hard all Summer/Fall/Winter readying the boat for their trip.  I was going to be working with Rick next month installing some solar panels on the roof of his pilothouse.  The first thing Rick said to me when he saw me today was "I don't think we'll be needing those solar panels after all."  I like his attitude!

Wednesday February 26, 2014 update:

I was not around most of the day because I was working on a boat elsewhere.  I stopped by late in the afternoon and the barge with 3 boats was gone.  Cleanup crews are STILL working full time to get all of the debris and oil out of the water.  The one boat left floating was still tied in it's slip.  It appears that the salvage operations are mostly complete, although I did here two days ago that there was a Detroit Diesel from one of the boats still down there.  I'm sure the bottom is littered with debris that must be removed.  There are still burned up docks that have to come out.  I imagine the Shelter Bay Marina will be closed for a while longer.

A dumpster full of oil soaked absorbent pads 

One boat remains.  Cleanup crews still working on the mess.

Saturday March 01, 2014 Update:

Our marina is open again.  Late yesterday afternoon they removed the curtain boom that has blocked the entrance to our marina, and surrounding basins for a week.  It seems that almost all of the diesel has evaporated.  The oily sheen that blanketed our waters for the first few days is now gone.  Within about 5 minutes of the boom's removal, a Bayliner 45 from a private dock was on it's way out.  I helped bring Paul's (a customer of mine) boat back to Shelter Bay about 45 minutes later.  It is nice to be able to come and go again.

I have heard reports of damage to boats downwind from the fire.  Canvas tops with dozens of pinholes burned into them from falling embers.  Isinglass/Strataglass plastic windows pitted from those embers.  Small burn marks on gelcoat surfaces.  I imagine that the damage reports will be trickling in for a while as boat owners arrive to inspect their own vessels.

I've spoken with the owner of the facility where the boats have been taken, and I've also been in conversation with the Shelter Bay manager.  Next week sometime I should be able to get into the yard where the boats have been taken and are now being arranged just as they were when the fire broke out on J-dock.  I think it will be interesting to follow along and see what happens next with these boats, and the investigation.  Certainly, a lot of us boat owners have questions about our own insurance coverage after an event like this.  I've heard dozens of fellow Shelter Bay marina tenants wondering if they have enough insurance to cover a tragedy of this magnitude.

So, if things work out as I hope they do, I should have some pictures next week showing the boats lined up ready for the investigation to begin.

Stay tuned........

The Vessels that were saved:
Rick's Eagle 40 escaped without damage.
The owner of this Eagle 40 pilothouse was on his boat when the fire broke out a few slips away from his.  He eventually managed to get his boat out if it's slip and out of harm's way.  A few years ago when this boat was prepared to be trucked to La Conner from a different state, the crew that got it ready did a total hack job.  They cut antenna wires, GPS cables, the radar cable, navigational and anchor light wiring, and more.  As I recall, they even managed to cut some of the instrument wiring for the flybridge helm.  I reassembled the mess and made it a working boat again.  It's good to see she survived.

Rich and Judy's old boat, a 45' Canoe Cove, somehow survived.
Rich and Judy's boat, which they sold just in December, somehow escaped the inferno without ever leaving her slip.  It's amazing after watching some of the video from the news choppers that this boat isn't on the bottom with the rest of them.  This boat may have suffered enough heat, smoke, and water damage to be totaled however.  That will be up to the insurance companies to decide.   Rich and Judy's grand-daughter Morgan plays with my daughter whenever she comes for a visit.  I think my daughter has been out on this boat.  Morgan has spent the weekend out on our boat with us.

Bayliner 47 that was moved to another dock just before the fire got to it.
This Bayliner 47, which was new to J-dock just a few weeks ago, is for sale.  I don't know who owns it.  I heard a rumor (might be true, might not be, it's a rumor!) that an offer to buy the boat was presented to the owner on Thursday and the fire broke out on Friday.   Fortunately Rob, Pat and Bob managed to get this boat away from the burning dock and moved to another pier.  It appears to have escaped with just some ruined canvas, a melted fender or two, and possibly some damage to the transom gelcoat (or it could just be a film of smoke discoloration, not actual damage?).

Dennis's Tolly 43 and Vic's Bayliner 47 were saved
These two boats were saved in the nick of time.  Dennis' boat, the Tolly 43 on the left suffered quite a bit of heat damage while Vic's Bayliner 47 apparently came out with virtually no damage.  Again, Rob and friends cut these two boats free and prevented them from being consumed by the rapidly approaching inferno.

Matt's Bayliner 38 was pulled from the fire.   It is the boat closest to the fire boat.
Photo:  Mark Slayton
Matt's boat was virtually surrounded by flames at one point.  I don't really know how Rob, Pat, and Bob managed to get it free, but they did.  Matt's Bayliner 38 was pulled from the fire but I hear it did suffer damage.  The boat was taken to a local boatyard.

A 40' Sea Ray Like Bud's.  Real picture coming soon, if possible....
Bud scheduled a haulout for Friday morning for his 40' Sea Ray so he could have the bottom painted, and the props checked, etc.  He left his slip on J-dock the morning of the fire with Rick (from the burned up Krogen 42) as his crewmate.  Bud's boat would certainly have been destroyed as it was directly across from the boat/boats where this all started.  About 5 years ago Bud lost his previous boat when it sank in it's slip on J-dock after heavy snow, followed by rain.  Bud is a very lucky man.  If the timing were just a bit different he could have lost boat #2 on J-dock.  I have done a lot of work on Bud's Sea Ray over the past 5 years. 

Our own similar loss:
I can completely empathize with everyone who has lost their boat during this tragedy.  In 2009 we too experienced the loss of our boat.  We had sold our boat a year prior to it's destruction so we didn't own it at the time.  Seeing "our" boat destroyed was still a painful event for us.  The couple that bought our boat was heading to the San Juan Islands from their home port in Tacoma.  The weather was quite windy and rough.  They decided to head into the Oak Harbor Marina and wait until the winds died down before crossing Rosario Straight to get to the San Juan Islands.  Their navigational laptop on the flybridge was being tossed around and was getting damaged, due to the rough seas.  So to save the laptop from further damage they stowed it someplace safe.  But during that process, in the large waves, they lost sight of the navigational buoys that mark the safe channel into Oak Harbor.  They unfortunately ended up outside the channel on the wrong side of the buoys and as they came down a large wave the boat smashed onto the top of one of the submerged  rocks that make up "the minefield", as locals call it.

The boat suffered severe hull damage and sunk within 3 minutes.  Everyone was saved without injury, but the boat rested in shallow water for 3 days while 35 knot wind driven waves relentlessly beat her to pieces.  The boat was literally ripped apart by those waves.  I went to the Oak Harbor marina boat launch about a week later to witness the removal of the boat, and it was heart wrenching.  We took this boat to Alaska (when our daughter was just 9 months old), Desolation Sound 3 times, Princess Louisa Inlet, and just about everywhere in the San Juan and Gulf Islands. It was the only boat our kids knew.  We had owned her for 4 years and created SO many great memories with this boat.  To see it reduced to virtually nothing was almost beyond description.  So, we can relate to what our Shelter Bay friends are going through right now.

Not much left of our 1990 Bayliner 38 
That flybridge seat was really bolted down!

The hull-to-deck joint completely separated after being pounded by waves
for days.  The flybridge floor is resting at deck level.

I drove this boat to Alaska and back, mostly from that steering wheel.

This was our boat a few weeks before we sold her.  She was in perfect
condition and our listing agent rated her a "10".  I spent countless hours getting
this boat into better than new condition.   Photo taken on A-Dock in Shelter Bay.
You can still see our boat if you ever visit the Seattle Boat Show.  Howard at North Harbor Diesel bought the boat from the insurance company and cut the transom off, then sent the rest of the boat to the landfill.  They modified the transom so they could show off their custom transom doors, custom swimstep/hull extensions, their underhull modifications, stern thrusters, paint, fold-away dinghy davit, etc.  It is now their BIG boat show display.  If you see North Harbor Diesel's booth at the boat show, go up and say "HI" to our old boat.  We miss her and feel sick about what happened to her.  But, at least part of our old boat still lives!

Our old boat lives on, as a beautiful display for boat shows.

Thursday March 06, 2014 update:

 I don't have much to report.  As of Tuesday the boats were not all setup in the lot where the investigation will begin.  According to the Shelter Bay manager I will be allowed to go over there and takes some photos showing the scene where the investigation will be conducted.  I doubt I will be allowed to take any close-up pictures, at least until the investigation is completed.  Apparently the investigation will begin in about a week.
All the boats have been removed from the burned docks.  There is still an oil containment boom around J-Dock but the rest of the marina and basins are boom-free.  There are no more signs of diesel in our waters.  Global Salvage and Diving will be rinsing the shore at low tide in the immediate area of the fire to help wash away any oil that may still be clinging to the shore.  The docks will be removed once the investigation is complete.

Towing one of the oil containment booms back to the boat launch.
Blocked from access.  Booms completely surrounding the dock.

A very quiet J-dock.

One of the new "finger piers" burned up and sank.  It's the one in the middle.

Damage to a boat on the next dock.  See the heat damage to the transom?

The dinghy on the above boat, on the next dock.
We are lucky I-Dock didn't burn up too.  It was close!

Friday March 14, 2014 update:

I have very little new to report as of this morning.  I haven't yet been invited to tour the location where the boats are lined up, but I have been assured that I will be allowed to see it very soon.  I did hear that the fire investigators will be inspecting J-Dock on Monday to determine if the fire started as a result of something involving the marina.  But, according to many eyewitnesses, it appears that the fire started ON one of the boats, not on the dock.

Oh, I do know that two of the boat-owners with boats that were destroyed in the fire (ones that clearly did not start the fire) have already purchased new vessels.  Rick called me a few nights ago and said "Steve, it looks like we will be needing those solar panels after all."  I was going to be installing a solar charging system on his other boat but it was destroyed in the fire.  Rick is in the process of purchasing a new boat right now.  He has already received his check from his insurance company!  Now that is service.  It is good to see that this disaster hasn't destroyed the upcoming summer boating season for at least two of the families!

Click here for the investigation story


  1. Wow Steve, thanks so much for sharing your photos. So sorry this happened in your Marina. It does look as though the clean up will take awhile. Keep us posted on the progress. Laura

    1. Hi Laura,

      I think it might be a while before we can go boating. The cleanup efforts are going to take a while, I fear. I just saw this in a new Seattle Times article:

      All recoverable oil has been contained, the department of Ecology said. More than 2,400 gallons of oil and fuel leaked into the harbor, with even more on board the sunken vessels. No wildlife impacts have been reported.

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