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Fishing boat goes aground off Westport

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The commercial fishing vessel ILA, a long liner, was discovered aground, listing on a sand bar at the high tide line about a half mile north of W. Ocean Avenue at approximately 3 a.m. Saturday morning.Coast Guard vessel registration records show that the hailing port for the vessel is Ketchikan, Alaska, but local fishermen say the boat has been moored at the Westport Marina for several years.Responders from U.S. Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor boarded the vessel and made contact with the sole occupant, boat owner/skipper Ken Earnst, who was still asleep below decks.He was safely escorted off the vessel and spent the remainder of night in Westport. Earnst, a Sedro Woolley resident, said that he was about seven miles offshore and preparing to set his lines when he opted instead to go below and sleep.Earnst said the wooden-hulled, 36.8-foot, 10-ton boat built in 1943 was a recent buy, and that he had spent his last $30,000 to own her.Early Saturday afternoon, State Parks rangers escorted Earnst’s truck back to the boat, where he was able to remove his fishing gear, compass, wheel, electronics and other items of value.Following the next high tide, shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday, the boat had already begun to break up, with the loss of a large section of rotted wood planking low on the starboard side near the stern.Early Saturday evening, a contractor hired by the state Department of Ecology successfully removed fuel and lubricants from the vessel.The remains of the ILA were left on the beach to be broken apart by incoming waves over the coming days. Each high tide since has battered the vessel even more, slowly but surely reducing it to beach debris.


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