Old cabin cruiser may be doomed

Boat is underwater in Columbia River, apparently upside down

By Erik Robinson, Columbian staff writer

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A vacant vessel that dragged its anchor and impaled itself last month on a set of pilings off the eastern tip of Tomahawk Island has been freed, in a manner of speaking.

The Columbia River appears to have taken matters into its own hands.

Multnomah County Sheriff’s Lt. Brett Elliott, with the river patrol, said a good Samaritan used a tugboat to shove the boat up against the island’s sandy shore in the past week. But high water has covered the vessel and is threatening to bash it to smithereens.

“It will take significant work to remove it, and probably professional salvage folks,” Elliott said Wednesday.

By Thursday, the vessel wasn’t visible, and members of the nearby Portland Yacht Club reported that the vessel flipped upside down and may have disintegrated.

“It looks to me like it was moving out toward deeper water,” said Terry Truan, dockmaster for the yacht club.

The vessel’s plight was initially reported in a Columbian story on March 28 as an example of the inability of public agencies to exercise control over festering problems on the water before they descend into crisis. The vessel’s owner, who lived on the boat, had to be taken off earlier this year due to a health problem.

Tried to help owner

Elliott said river patrol deputies had worked with the man for years, trying to connect him with social service agencies and medical treatment.

The old cabin cruiser’s twin inboard engines hadn’t been run in years, and Elliott said the risk of environmental pollution was minimal.

However, he was concerned about the boat bouncing loose in the channel of the North Portland Harbor. He said the Oregon State Marine Board may step in to underwrite a salvage operation, but only if authorities determine the owner has effectively abandoned the vessel.

“We obviously need to have contact with him again,” Elliott said.

The vessel is far from the only lingering problem on area waterways.

On Lake River near Ridgefield, the state Department of Natural Resources is trying to determine its next move after a 30-day eviction order expired Tuesday on a houseboat tied up above state-owned aquatic land near the national wildlife refuge.

Lance Balderree, locked in a dispute with McCuddy’s Ridgefield Marina over past-due moorage fees, towed the houseboat upstream and left it within sight of the public entrance to the wildlife refuge’s River S unit. As if that wasn’t problematic enough, the towboat he used in the operation foundered and sank.

The DNR hasn’t decided its next step.

“They are looking at different options,” DNR spokeswoman Jane Chavey said. “We haven’t decided what to do, but we’ve encouraged him to get into a legal moorage somewhere.”

Zachary Kaufman of The Columbian contributed to this report.