Boat sinks in King Harbor Marina, refloated by LA County Lifeguards
Rolling Hills Estates resident John Bald had stopped in at the King Harbor Marina office to get his dock key remagnetized Saturday morning when office coordinator Staci Gabrielli offered him her condolences.
“I’m so sorry about your boat,” she said.
“What’s wrong with my boat?” Bald asked.
“It sunk,” Gabrielli said. “In the slip. I thought you knew.”
by Kealiinohopono “Pono” Barnes
LACoFD Lifeguard Division
[Click on photos below to enlarge]
At 9:40 a.m. that morning, shortly before Bald arrived at the marina office, the Redondo Fire Department received a call about a half submerged boat in King Harbor Marina slip 012. Los Angeles County Lifeguards were the first to respond to the call and immediately began efforts to refloat the boat.
The boat was Bald’s 1973, 28-foot Luhrs sportfisher Osprey. He said he had owned the boat for 10 years and used it for fishing and whale watching. Bald had been in meetings Saturday morning and missed the lifeguard’s calls to alert him.
He ran the few hundred yards from the marina office to his slip to find Osprey’s stern underwater and its bow sticking up in the air.
In anticipation of the El Nino storms, Bald inspected his boat last week and made sure the bilge was empty and that rainwater couldn’t leak into the cabin, he said.
Lifeguard dive master Kenichi Haskett had three lifeguard divers in the water, Lars Gustafson, Jonas Russell and Danielle McMillion. The divers had tied floats to the stern and were inflating the floats with compressed air from SCUBA tanks placed in the cockpits of boats on either side of the Osprey.
Their plan was to raise the transom, the rear end of a boat, above the waterline. Once the transom was above the waterline, the Harbor Patrol planned to use salvage pumps to empty the water out of the boat. Then Baywatch Redondo skipper Eric Nelson would tow the boat to the nearby King Harbor Boat Yard for repairs.
After the three divers filled the floats under the stern, the stern began to rise. After about an hour, the transom cleared the water line. Then the salvage pumps began to pump water out of the boat. But within minutes of pumping, the water in the boat shifted forward, and sunk the bow. Raising the bow presented a problem that hadn’t existed with raising the stern. Unlike the stern, the bow was wider than the slip. It couldn’t be raised high enough for the salvage pumps to empty the boat.
At a meeting aboard Baywatch Redondo, divemaster Haskett and his three divers, Baywatch skipper Nelson, Lifeguard Captain Daniel Douglas and Harbor Patrol officer Tim Dornberg decided to float the boat off the bottom, but leave it sufficiently submerged to slide it out from the slip and side-tie it to Baywatch Redondo. After this was accomplished, Baywatch Redondo slowly pulled the semi submerged boat to the King Harbor Boat Yard hoist. There, King Harbor Boat Yard owner Steve Tavera used the hoist to lift the boat high enough for the gunnels to clear the waterline. A Harbor Patrol boat then pumped the water out of the boat.
The boat was then lifted onto a trailer and transported to the boatyard for repairs. At press time, the cause of the boat’s sinking was undetermined, but boating experts say most slip sinkings result from faulty through-hulls, which are openings below the waterline, commonly used for for discharging boat waste. Another possibility, a boatyard employee said, is that rainwater sunk the stern sufficiently for water to enter the engine exhaust holes.
Bald said he has owned roughly a dozen boats over the years and hopes to get another boat similar to the Luhrs if Osprey can’t be repaired. ER