PORT CLYDE, Maine — A fishing dragger carrying about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel sank early Friday morning off the Port Clyde dock after running aground on a nearby ledge the previous day.
Coast Guard officials said all three crew members of the 42-foot-long boat Lady Debbie of Phippsburg were safely taken off the boat Thursday after it ran aground on a ledge near Hart’s Island. By Friday afternoon crews from several agencies were working to lift the boat and keep the fuel from leaking into the harbor.
“On the grand scale of things, it’s a very small spill,” said Nathan Thompson, a hazardous materials technician with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “It’s just complicated by the sinking of the boat.”
Workers had sopped up about 50 gallons of diesel fuel by evening, Thompson said. He estimated that no more than a couple of gallons of fuel had escaped the orange containment booms surrounding the sunken vessel and entered the harbor.
A sizable group of Port Clyde residents and visitors gathered along the harbor to watch recovery efforts.
Roger Libby was among the onlookers watching the barge approach.
“I called my wife and told her to hold supper,” Libby said. “This is the greatest show on earth. I wouldn’t miss this.”
A slick of oil sparkled in the sunshine around the Lady Debbie as workers from Hampden’s Clean Harbors Environmental Services filled plastic bags with oil-soaked pads. The boat’s radar and fishing gear listed drunkenly toward the water and a wet-suited diver surfaced, seal-like, around the site of the operation.
Fishermen watched and speculated about the operation’s probable success as a barge from Prock Marine of Rockland attached the 70-ton vessel to a large crane. Port Clyde Harbor Master David Schmanska said that while boat owner Robert Graves was not there, he had been “cooperative.”
Schmanska said that he was awakened at about 3 a.m. with the news that the boat had flipped. The DEP and Marine Patrol were on the scene early, he said.
“We’ve had boats end up on the bottom,” Schmanska said. “Every situation’s different. This is probably the biggest one, and the most public.”
The DEP used absorbent pads and about 200 feet of hard plastic containment booms to segregate the sunken vessel, said Barbara Parker, director of the DEP’s oil and hazardous materials response division.
Parker said that a DEP-hired diver was able to plug up two of the Lady Debbie’s three vent lines — potential oil leak sites — with rubber corks.
“It can be very hazardous,” Parker said of the operation. “We’re crossing our fingers so everything can go smoothly. It’s quite an orchestration.”
Raising the boat from the dock was going to be much easier than if the Lady Debbie had sunk off Allen’s Ledge, she said.
“If it was at the ledge, it would have been a lot more hazardous,” Parker said. “At the dock, it’s easily accessible by our equipment and personnel.”
The salvage operation likely would be finished later Friday night, Thompson said.
Residents sounded sympathetic to the plight of the fishing boat and its crew.
“Anybody who is unfamiliar with that part of the harbor is going to have a hard time,” said Sarah Robertson of Port Clyde.