Sailboat gets stuck on railway bridge




A sailboat with a 40-foot mast got stuck Wednesday morning as it tried to pass under a railway bridge over the Columbia River.

The sailboat attempted to pass under a fixed portion of the Columbia Bridge when its mast got stuck at about 9:15 a.m., according to Gus Melonas, spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

The boat got stuck off of Port Way near the Washington side of the river, according to dispatchers.

Melonas said the sailboat operator did not contact the BNSF bridge tender prior to attempting the pass. The bridge is capable of swinging open to allow taller boats to pass, he said.

Boat operator Paul Bulkley said he didn’t think he would have to call for a bridge lift so his sailboat could pass through.

“The bridge wouldn’t get out of my way,” he joked after the incident.

Bulkley was heading to St. Helens from Portland, but was temporarily delayed because of the incident.

He was the only person on the boat.

He wasn’t injured and his boat wasn’t damaged, he said.

Crews from the Vancouver Fire Department responded to reports of a sailboat listing at the railroad bridge but were beat to the scene by boats from Portland fire, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Port of Portland, said Capt. Chris Moen, a spokesman for the department.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office tied up the sailboat and freed it from the bridge, BNSF spokesman Melonas said.

Once the sailboat was free, BNSF officials inspected the railway and trestle and found no damage.

The incident delayed trains for about 15 minutes, Melonas said.

The incident is a rare, but not unheard of, occurrence, Melonas said. The last time a boat got stuck on the bridge was two years ago, he said.