Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun
The Chickamauga pictured in February at its dryland home in Port
***This story has been updated to include cost of the
disposal, towing and other expenses, condition of the boat and the
court date for the ship’s owner, 8:30 a.m. April 17.
The historic tugboat Chickamauga is no more.
Likely doomed by its poor condition and the prohibitive costs
needed to restore it, neither individuals nor organizations could
be found to rescue the troubled tug from being scrapped after it
was towed 38 miles from Bainbridge Island’s Eagle Harbor to a Port
Townsend marina Jan. 31.
America’s first full diesel-powered tugboat when it was built in
1915, the Chickamauga was disposed of the week of March 24 in Port
Townsend, said Toni Weyman Droscher, the communications manager for
the Aquatics Program of the Washington State Department of Natural
Resources. The contract for disposal was for $20,000, plus tax,
said Melissa Ferris, the director of the state’s Derelict Vessel
Daily pumping, checking on the vessel, towing, escort through
the haul-out process, decontamination of the boom, etc. was
$25,435.35, Ferris said. Haul-out and storage at the Port of Port
Townsend was $2,674.80, she added.
DNR took control of the derelict boat Jan. 16 under the state’s
Derelict Vessels Act, which gives it the authority to take custody
of a vessel when an owner allows it to become derelict or
abandoned. Absent Chickamauga owner Anthony R. Smith did this when
he failed to pay moorage and utility fees for nearly a year to
Eagle Harbor Marina, totaling $8,560.30.
In addition to what he owes the marina and in legal fees, Smith
also owes the Coast Guard for its expenses in responding to the
Chickamauga’s October sinking, which total $140,000, and the
Department of Ecology’s expenses for coordinating the spill cleanup
with the Coast Guard, which total $2,000.
Smith was charged Jan. 15 with three criminal counts from the
state attorney general’s office. His trial is set to begin in June
23 in Kitsap County Superior Court.
The Chickamauga sank Oct. 2, leaked about 400 gallons of
petroleum and 10 gallons of lube oil in the waters of Eagle Harbor
and was lifted by a crane Oct. 10.
“The 70-foot hull (of the Chickamauga) was deconstructed with an
excavator,” Droscher said. “All recyclable items were separated.
Debris was placed in a 30-yard container and handled by the local
waste contractor, DM Disposal.”
The boat’s helm and throttle controls were saved and delivered
by DNR to the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum in Tacoma this week to
be restored and eventually put on display. The historical
significance of the boat that Smith purchased for $1,000 in 2009
was important to retain for Joseph Govednik, the museum’s curator
of collections and volunteer manager.
“It is important to preserve this, and all historic vessels, as
they are subjected to less than ideal conditions being exposed to
the elements of nature,” Govednik said. “Ultimately, all wood boats
turn to dust, it’s a matter of time, so it is very important to
preserve, protect and maintain these boats.
“I hope this can be a lesson and reminder, that these vessels
require constant care and monitoring,” Govednik added. “Although
the vessel is lost, we are very fortunate to take possession of the
throttle controls and helm.”
Govednik said the museum doesn’t have immediate plans to display
the Chickamauga artifacts, but hopes to use them in a future
exhibition on tugboats to support stories of the region’s working
In addition to the throttle controls and helm, the silohette of
the shell and ship’s log were likely some of the few original
things remaining on the Chickamauga by the time the state took
possession of the vessel. In fact, DNR had its marine archeologist
and others inspect the ship and found the engines weren’t the
original ones and that because there had been “so much retrofitting
and renovation that it was really a shadow of its original self,”
“The engines were 671s, which were designed specifically for the
landing craft for Normandy in World War II and they don’t have any
historical value since they were stamped out (for mass
production),” Eagle Harbor Marina Harbormaster Doug Crow said.
“They weren’t maintaining it for historical value, their interest
was in keeping the boat moving and working with it. There was very
little to that boat that had significant value and they got the two
items that were easily retrievable and it would’ve given them
something to put in the museum and write about its history.”
The demise of the Chickamauga was taken hard by well-known
Poulsbo watercolor artists Michael and Sarah Yaeger, who preserved
the boat by painting it for their 2015 calendar. The couple were
holding out hope the boat would be saved.
“We are both angry!” Michael said. “This boat was on the
Historic Register and is the first diesel powered tug in the USA –
surely this DNR group could’ve tried harder in the saving of her.
This whole saga smacks of ‘raw raw expediency’ over our cultural
responsibility for our heritage.
“The DNR bylaws should be looked at for any violation that may
have occurred in this sordid mess,” Michael continued. “What’s next
– the demolition of the Arthur Foss and the Virginia V? The
Chickamauga played a more crucial – or at least equal – role in our
The helm and throttle controls are now all that remain of the
Chickamauga after it was dismantled recently.