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Century-old boat that sank in Oyster Bay might have gone to museum

Workers clean up pieces of a 106-year-old wood

Workers clean up pieces of a 106-year-old wood hulled boat that sank in Oyster Bay Saturday. (Nov. 4, 2013) Credit: Barry Sloan

The century-old dredge that sank in Oyster Bay over the weekend and broke apart during a salvage attempt had recently been retired and was being considered for donation to the Mystic Seaport museum for restoration.

Frank M. Flower & Sons Inc., owner of the 106-year-old wood-hulled Waldron B, said Monday it had been negotiating with the Connecticut museum since retiring the oyster dredge less than a month ago.

But the craft broke up Sunday during a salvage attempt and the pieces were carted away Monday, according to Flower's manager, Joseph Vinarski. All that the firm deemed worth saving was the steering wheel, which was given to veteran captain Douglas Fitzmaurice.

Vinarski said that while the cause of the sinking will never be known, "It's suspected that she possibly lost a [hull] plank, but there was a catastrophic failure somewhere below the water line." After the hull crumbled, the debris was removed from the water with an excavator.

"Every year we haul the boats and they get inspected at our railway in Bayville by the experienced company shipwright before bottom caulking and painting and other necessary work is done," Vinarski said. The dredge was examined by a licensed marine surveyor when required by the insurance carrier, but it had not been done in the past few years. The pilothouse was replaced about 15 years ago.

Although some residents and boaters said they saw a sheen on the water or smelled oil Saturday and Sunday, federal and state agencies said quick action in deploying containment booms prevented damage from spilled diesel fuel.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Ali Flockerzi said Monday that between 100 and 150 gallons of diesel were in the tank. Most of it was contained and cleaned up by Miller Marine Services of Port Jefferson or dissipated, she added.

State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Bill Fonda said Monday that the agency had received a complaint about sheen Sunday night, but when an employee checked Monday morning, there was no sign of oil.

Vinarski said a company captain was contacted about 4:30 p.m. Saturday by the head of the local TowBoat U.S. franchise who told him that the boat was sinking. The captain called other company staffers, and government officials were alerted. "We began pumping her out as best we could, but the decks were awash," he said. "The pumps couldn't keep up with the flow of water."

He said employees working with a town bay constable immediately put out containment booms until Miller arrived to expand the cleanup efforts.

The Waldron B, built in Bridgeport, Conn., by the Greene Oyster Co., was not the company's oldest boat. The dredge Joe Glancy built in 1903 is the oldest of what is now a six-boat fleet.

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