Bar Harbor barge sinks during storm

Posted Oct. 31, 2012, at 3:39 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Officials are assessing the condition of a barge that sank overnight Monday in the harbor and are waiting for a chance to salvage it, according to the Coast Guard.

The barge is one of four vessels that either sank or became adrift when the remnants of Hurricane Sandy blew through Maine on Monday and Tuesday, a Coast Guard official said Wednesday.

The vessel is a 50-foot barge used for marine construction and salvage operations, according to Lt. Nick Barrow of the Coast Guard’s Sector Northern New England in South Portland. He said officials with the Coast Guard’s aids to navigation team and with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection were either at the scene or on their way to determine what kind of hazards the sunken vessel might pose.

The barge sunk on its mooring and doesn’t appear to be a hazard to navigation in the harbor, Barrow said. It has leaked a little diesel fuel and some hydraulic fluid, but there do not appear to be any significant leaks from the barge so far, he said.

Barrow said surf generated by the storm is still strong enough in Frenchman Bay to delay the recovery effort. The owner has arranged to have the barge salvaged, he said.

“They’re waiting for the weather to abate,” Barrow said.

According to Charlie Phippen, Bar Harbor’s harbor master, the barge is owned by local resident Robert Collier.

Without being specific, Phippen said the barge was having “operational issues” before the storm generated heavy seas along the coast, which is why it was still on its mooring when Sandy hit. Because Bar Harbor is fairly exposed, many local boat owners move their vessels to other harbors in the area when storms are expected.

Collier did not return a message left at his home Wednesday afternoon.

Barrow said the Coast Guard also got reports of boats breaking free from their moorings in Portland, Portsmouth and Rockland during the storm. The boats in Portsmouth and Portland — a recreational 25-foot boat in Great Bay near Portsmouth and a 35-foot sailing vessel in Portland’s Harbor — each have been recovered by their owners without sustaining significant damage, he said.

The boat in Rockland, a lobster boat, reportedly had washed ashore somewhere in Owls Head, according to Barrow. He said efforts still were being made Wednesday afternoon to refloat the fishing vessel.

Barrow said the ports of Portland and Portsmouth both were closed Monday due to the storm but reopened again at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

According to Phippen, part of a private fisherman’s float moored in the harbor in Bar Harbor broke loose during the storm and washed up on Bar Island, along with some debris from the barge that sank. He said the float appeared to have survived in pretty good shape but that the storm surge left it in a place where it won’t be easy to recover.

“The problem is you need a pretty high tide to retrieve it,” Phippen said.

Phippen added that the storm prevented the last three cruise ships scheduled to visit Bar Harbor from showing up, bringing the town’s total for 2012 to 108.

Adam Thurston, harbor master in Southwest Harbor, said Wednesday that a fisherman’s float also broke off its mooring in that harbor during Sandy but it was recovered from a local marina with little damage.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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