Sunken motorboat remains underwater

·3 min read

Aug. 5—SALISBURY — Roughly three weeks after a 17-foot fishing craft sank in the Merrimack River near Salisbury Beach State Reservation, the boat remains underwater, according to Newburyport's harbormaster.

Two boaters were rescued July 17 after waves from one or more passing boats swamped the center console vessel, filling it with more water than the craft's bilge pump could process. Realizing their fishing boat was sinking, the two men grabbed lifejackets and jumped into the water.

The boat, according to a Coast Guard spokesperson, overturned and sank quickly near Buoy 11.

Other boaters and jet skiers were able to corral the two men and keep them safe until a harbormaster boat and the Coast Guard picked them up and brought them to the reservation. The two men launched from the reservation and were going day fishing at the time of the sinking.

Newburyport Harbormaster Paul Hogg said Thursday that despite a concerted effort by boat recovery company TowBoatUS, the Environmental Police and multiple harbormaster departments, the boat has yet to be found.

"I wouldn't say it happens a lot, but it does happen," Hogg said of boats never recovered.

He said the boat may remain underwater if it got caught on something and did not have floatation devices.

"When they go down, they stay down," Hogg said of boats without flotation devices.

Asked if the boat posed any danger to other mariners, Hogg said he could not rule out any potential problems if the boat, for example, popped back up to the surface on its own. Still, he asked boaters to remain vigilant and to report any sightings to his office.

While an official search has been called off, Hogg added that his department was conducting sonar sweeps as they passed the area where the boat sank.

Hogg said the team looking for the boat used the same sonar equipment while traveling up and down the channel between the two jetties for several days but came up empty.

TowBoatUS owner Tim Peters said while searching for the vessel, his team discovered a skiff with a small engine covered with barnacles. Judging by its appearance, Peters said the skiff may have sank up to 20 years ago.

"There are some down there," Peters said of boats.

Peters agreed with Hogg that the more recently sunken boat could pose problems for boaters.

"Now, it's a hazard to navigation. I don't want to hit it," Peters said, adding that the boat could eventually be scooped up once the much-anticipated dredging project begins.

As far as Yankee Homecoming is concerned, Hogg said the city's public docks remain full but the number of transient boaters in the water remain "a little quieter" during the week. His department will be busy this weekend as it shores up plans for the annual fireworks display Saturday and its appearance in the parade Sunday, Hogg said.

Dave Rogers is the editor of the Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

Dave Rogers is the editor of the Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.