Workers break up the Argosy in January after it washed ashore at Warm Beach. It’s now in pieces in Seattle. (Global Diving & Salvage)

Workers break up the Argosy in January after it washed ashore at Warm Beach. It’s now in pieces in Seattle. (Global Diving & Salvage)

After a storied history, the Argosy rests in pieces

The 100-year-old ship has been removed from Warm Beach after it ran aground in Tulalip.

WARM BEACH — The nearly century-long voyage of the Argosy won’t end on a Tulalip beach after all.

Instead, the 65-foot yacht is now in pieces at a Seattle shipyard.

Around mid-January, neighbors found the ship washed up on Mission Beach. Built in 1925, the vessel boasted a storied past. At one point in the 1930s, it exploded, killing its owner.

On Jan. 26, tribal officials tried to tow the vessel to Everett, but it got loose and floated off, said Troy Wood, manager of the state Department of Natural Resources’ Derelict Vessel Removal Program. His team tracks abandoned or problem boats in Washington waters.

The department received reports of the stubborn boat’s new location, in Warm Beach, the next day. Soon after, a contractor hired by the department removed it in fragments.

Now the owner has a chance to reclaim his property.

“Even though it’s in pieces we have to give the owner the opportunity to collect their personal belongings,” Wood said.

After March 2, the Department of Natural Resources will dispose of what’s left of the yacht. Most of the materials will end up in a landfill, but metal and other salvageable parts can be recycled, Wood said.

The Argosy has been on the program’s radar since 2014, but crews haven’t been able to take it because of the boat’s location over the years.

On Warm Beach, the vessel wrecked in someone’s yard and was leaking oil and fuel that had soaked the ship’s wood. Because of those circumstances, the department was able to remove it.

More than 580 such ships have been recovered since the state program began in 2002, though perhaps none have as colorful a history as the Argosy.

The Argosy was built by Edward E. Johnson in Tacoma, and launched in 1925.

About eight years later, a fatal explosion on board took the life of its owner Edward A. Rich.

According to stories passed through the decades, Rich had overfilled the ship’s gas tanks when fuel dropped to 10 cents a gallon.

Soon after, he was on board with a mechanic who mentioned the smell of gasoline. Rich ignored the warning and lit a cigarette. The worker got nervous and left.

Minutes later the ship was in flames. Rich was pulled from the blaze, but died days later at a Tacoma hospital.

The following year, a man and his son purchased the scorched Argosy for $350, according to Coast Guard records. They planned to renovate the boat, but sold it before the work was complete.

Between 1942 and 1944, during World War II, the Argosy was in the Coast Guard’s fleet.

In the following years the ship changed hands several times. Then in the mid-1990s, Rick Etsell purchased the boat as a family project.

“Oh, I just absolutely loved that boat,” Etsell previously told The Daily Herald.

After 11 years of memories on the ship, Etsell decided to sell. His children had grown up, and the family didn’t need that much space anymore.

The derelict vessel program noticed the Argosy about a decade later. Around that time it was at a marina in La Conner, and then made its way to Everett’s Union Slough.

Eventually it broke free, and Wood believes that’s when it washed toward Tulalip.

The state has been in contact with the boat’s owner in the past, but has been unable to reach him since the Argosy washed ashore on Warm Beach.

It’s not clear yet how much all this is going to cost.

“It will be expensive,” Wood said.

In the end, payment is the owner’s responsibility. The department plans to send him a bill, and if it doesn’t get paid it eventually goes to collections.

Those who have an unwanted vessel can relinquish their property before it becomes a problem.

The Department of Natural Resources also runs a Vessel Turn-In Program, where boats under 45 feet can be turned in if they’re in danger of becoming derelict or abandoned.

If a ship meets the qualifications, disposal is free. It may help protect the environment and can eliminate a big bill for owners in the future.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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