PORT LUDLOW -- On the picturesque waterfront of this Olympic Peninsula community, the nearby mountains are covered in snow, seals and birds frolic in the water, and boat owners are taking down their Christmas decorations. And looming over it all is the New Star, a 180-foot long, rusting hulk of what was a former Navy ship turned fish processor.
You might think this is about aesthetics, but it’s more than that. Boat owners, some of whome live aboard their boats, worry about the engineless New Star and what it might do if it broke loose in a storm.
“The death star,” is what Darren O’Brien and fellow boat owners call it. He considers it an “accident waiting to happen.”
“With the prevailing winds, if it hits the fuel dock, we’ve got an environmental catastrophy,” said O’Brien, who lives with his wife and daughter aboard the Traveler, and wakes up to the New Star outside the windows on the port side of his boat every morning.
The New Star showed up in the early days of October. Marina manager Kori Ward said the owner needed a place to tie up a barge.
“When I saw it, I was shocked,” said Ward, who was expecting a flat topped, commercial barge along the lines of those that haul cargo to Alaska. She said she wasn’t expecting a ship, stripped of just about everything including its engine.
While that technically makes the New Star a barge, the good news is that the boat has no fuel on board, no oil, no chemicals. But it’s considered too massive for the dock it’s tied to, so the marina is paying a contractor to keep pumps going so it doesn’t sink, and has even called in a tug to keep it from putting too much pressure on the dock during high tides and heavy winds.
“Any winds that are forecast over 15 miles per hour, they have somebody down here watching the boat, or myself,” said Ward.
Ward said she’s lost contact with the owner, whom she and the state identify as George Marincin with VicMar Inc. of Tenino. The State Department of Natural Resources, which administers the Derelict Vessel program, said it hasn’t had contact with Marincin since November; a notice is taped to the side of the ship notifying anyone who reads it that the state plans to obtain custody of the ship on Jan. 3. Once that happens it could still take weeks before procedures are in place to move the vessel to a safer location; eventually, the boat will be scrapped.
Marincin did not returned calls from KING 5 News.