Cranes lift sunken wreck out of sensitive shellfish cove

COUPEVILLE, Wash. - A derelict fishing boat that sank in Penn Cove last month, triggering an environmental crisis, is back on the surface after two massive cranes lifted it from the bottom Sunday.

The cranes spent the entire day slowly pulling the 128-foot vessel Deep Sea up from the silt while anxious residents of nearby Coupeville watched from a bluff above the cove.

The vessel sank shortly after it caught fire May 12 and diesel leaks from its tanks closed shellfish harvesting operations in the cove, which is renowned around the world for its high-quality mussels.

Residents of the area have been waiting ever since for the gutted hulk to be removed from the environmentally sensitive waters.

"I want it done right," says Robin Llewellyn, a local bird watcher. "I want no sheen on that water. And I want the water to be pristine when they leave - just like it was - and not leave anything."

"Everyone who lives here feels that way," says Seaneen Hummel, another local resident.

The sunken vessel's leaking fuel caused the Penn Cove mussel farm to shut down operations, jeopardizing jobs and businesses that rely on the famed shellfish.

The sunken boat has already cost the local shellfish-harvesting business thousands of dollars in lost sales, and some of the local restaurants that serve the renowned mussels are running short.

And then there's the price tag for the massive salvage operation, which could reach $2 million.

"It costs so much money to deal with this problem that we shouldn't have to deal with, as taxpayers, in the first place," says Hummel.

Now that the Deep Sea is back on the surface, residents and businesses in the area are breathing a sigh of relief. They say the town and the environment have suffered enough.

The goal now is to safely tow the Deep Sea to a dry dock in Seattle and rip her apart, turning her into salvage.

In the meantime, the state is going to try to get the boat's owner, Rory Westmoreland, to pay for the mess.

Officials also said Westmoreland could soon be facing criminal charges. The derelict boat was illegally anchored in the cove for months before it sank and began leaking contaminants into the pristine cove.

Crews are now working to drain the gutted hulk and pump out any diesel still in the fuel tanks before towing it from the cove.