Derelict boat with troubled past sinks off Orcas Island

Tens days later, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies are continuing their efforts to reduce environmental impacts from a boat that sunk off Orcas Island on Nov. 18.

It’s not the first time the El Capitan has posed a threat to the environment.

Crews from Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, Washington Department of Ecology, and the Islands’ Oil Spill Association (IOSA) were called to reports that the 80-foot vessel was rapidly sinking at West Sound Marina on Orcas Island.

A sheen was seen coming from the boat when it sank next to the pier in about 30 feet of water.

Teams placed an oil-absorbent boom around the boat, and several trailers of additional boom were brought to the site by IOSA as a precaution. The vessel was monitored over the weekend.

The Coast Guard hired a diving and salvage company to evaluate the ship for more threats of pollution, but none were found.

Crews also assessed the shoreline and found there were no reported effects there or to area wildlife. In addition, there were no Southern Resident Killer Whale sightings in the area at the time of the incident.

The area around the ship still has a boom around it as a precaution, and IOSA has continued to look for threats of pollution since the boat sank.

A sheen in the marina outside the boom was reported by IOSA on Nov. 26, and the Coast Guard hired a contractor to replace any soiled boom. The exact source of the sheen that was spotted is still under investigation.

A joint effort is underway among the agencies to determine what will happen to the vessel.

“Previously, in November 2020, a joint effort between the Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and San Juan County determined the fuel and oil onboard the El Capitan posed a significant threat to the environment due to its derelict condition. Contractors removed 590 gallons of various fuels and oils,” the USCG said in a news release.