Trawler still stuck under San Mateo Bridge

April 15, 2009 6:31:21 PM PDT
There is some progress in moving a fishing trawler after it drifted into the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge Tuesday evening due to the high winds.

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With all westbound lanes of the bridge open, the traffic was moving smoothly Wednesday evening. There is a planned shoulder closure Thursday morning after the commute.

The high winds and choppy seas have been problematic enough trying to remove the trawler, but it has also been sitting in only three feet of water at low tide, six feet of water at high tide. The U.S. Coast Guard is evaluating the best way to move the trawler with the least amount of distraction to the motorists on the bridge.

Tom Lacey took in the sad sight of his 70-foot trawler, Big Timber, wedged under the bridge. He was not on the boat Tuesday when a three person crew took it out from Oyster Point.

"When they got out of the harbor, into the channel, the transmission broke. The engine was fine, but they had no way of turning the propeller," said Lacey. "It's just a boat. The main thing is everyone is safe and there's no spill."

Lacy says the captain dropped the anchor, but the anchor chair broke in the wind-whipped waters.

"If it wasn't for the transmission breaking, that boat is built for that kind of weather. It wouldn't have had this kind of problem, but without the transmission, there was nothing he could do. And then when the anchor broke, that was it," said Lacey.

Two months ago Lacy bought the boat with the intention of converting it to a pleasure boat. Now he figures his $7,500 investment and dreams of boating fun are gone, crushed under the San Mateo Bridge on the Hayward side.

It took down three lighting poles and three call boxes, closing all westbound lanes overnight.

Even with all but one small section of the far right lane open this morning, the commute was still ugly and felt as far away as the Bay Bridge, packed with commuters avoiding the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. High winds were still a problem Wednesday afternoon. It took until then for the Coast Guard to pump off 1,300 gallons of diesel fuel still in the boats tank.

"There is no more fuel on board. The only fuel that is left is maybe minute pockets of lube oil within the engine room that we can't access right now," said David Mosley from the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard is waiting for the right combination of high tide and low winds to bring in a crane and barge to remove the boat.

"I'm not anticipating that it is going to be removed tonight. Maybe tomorrow, or tomorrow afternoon. It's and ongoing assessment right now," said Mosley.

Lacey says the captain is resting after his harrowing day.

"He's sleeping. No one was injured, thank God, and there's no pollution," said Lacey.

The Coast Guard says it has been searching the shoreline and on the water for any evidence of fuel spill and can find none. They also say they have a special contractor standing by with a shallow water barge, ready to move in when called upon.

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