The sinking of a 90-year-old wooden sailboat named ‘Helaine’ had Emeryville Marina residents shaking their heads and crews scrambling this afternoon. Once she started to slip under, submerging took only a few frightening seconds.
The forty foot long boat’s keel of cast iron steel, estimated to weigh about nine tons, could be seen angled toward the dock. Fortunately, nobody was on board or injured.
Marina maintenance crews had previously tried to pump water out of the sinking vessel docked at slip B 01. Once the pumps could not keep up, she settled a foot below the surface and into the silt. Crews stretched an absorbent roll across the open end of the slip to contain any oil, fuel or other fluids.
The most recent owner of the vintage craft, a gentleman named ‘Lloyd’, passed away last year and the boat fell into the hands of the Marina’s operator. Slip fees were reported to be delinquent and it is unlikely it was insured.
The wooden racer had a storied past and had won regattas in 1939 and 1941. Despite this, Helaine was not quite ‘thoroughbred’ enough to be worth more than sentimental value. It would require extensive renovation to be seaworthy again according to a fellow yacht owner familiar with such matters. Wooden crafts have become a novelty or collectors item and are notorious for rot and more prone to sinking compared to contemporary, fiberglass boats.
The Marina has experienced its share of sunken crafts, abandonment and other drama over the years. One wooden novelty dubbed ‘the pirate ship’ sank for the second time recently. The most recent owners abruptly vacated, abandoning the vessel for Safe Harbor Marina to dispose of. Another derelict boat was hauled and destroyed last year, a huge wrecking ball used to smash it into smithereens.
Last year, a robbery suspect was found to be squatting on an abandoned Chris Craft with visible holes in the wooden hull. The man was arrested by the Orinda Police after being identified in a string of residential robberies.
One yachtsman said raising Helaine will involve placing balloons inside the hull then inflating them. Water will then be removed with Bilge pumps and the wreck will be towed away for restoration or demolition.
Raising her will probably be covered by Marina insurance that one spectator noted could come at a cost as high as $10,000. The Coast Guard was reportedly called to evaluate safety and advise raising the boat.