99-Year-Old Tugboat Sinks Off of Bainbridge, Leaking Fuel

Oct 2, 2013

A historic tugboat has sunk off Bainbridge Island, spilling fuel into the waters of Eagle Harbor. The tug Chickamauga is 99 years old, and it’s thought to be the first diesel-powered tugboat on the West Coast, according to the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.

Bainbridge Firefighters got a call that it was sinking at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, and quickly deployed booms and other containment equipment.

The 70-foot wooden tug disgorged some red-dyed diesel fuel and engine oil, though it’s not clear how much. Washington state Department of Ecology spokesman Larry Altose estimates it could be about 200 gallons, and says quick action by first responders seems to have kept a lid on the problem.

“Any release of oil is harmful to the environment, even if we do a good job containing it. And we do a good job cleaning it out. We take oil spills very seriously, and we try to minimize them as quickly as possible when they occur,” Altose said.

Altose says vessels of this size typically carry about 2,000 gallons of fuel. A diver was working underwater, trying to plug the leak just hours after the boat sunk. The Coast Guard was unable to reach the owners of the Chickamauga, nicknamed the “Sea Chicken.” They’ve tapped a contingency fund to hire a spill response contractor.