A passerby stops to take a photo of the beached Argosy along Mission Beach on Friday in Tulalip. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A passerby stops to take a photo of the beached Argosy along Mission Beach on Friday in Tulalip. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

After century-long odyssey, Argosy washes ashore in Tulalip

The boat has a storied past. It once exploded, killing its owner. It was used in WWII. Now, it’s aground.

TULALIP — She had survived nearly 100 years on the water.

After a sometimes rocky odyssey, the Argosy may have reached her final resting place.

Earlier this week, the 55-foot-long yacht washed ashore on Mission Beach in Tulalip.

Kim Heltne noticed the wooden ghost ship floating in Possession Sound on Sunday, as a snow storm moved in. Days later, the Argosy had settled in the sand near Heltne’s home.

It’s not clear yet what will happen with the boat. Because the vessel is on the Tulalip Indian Reservation, state agencies don’t have permission to move the yacht, said Troy Wood, derelict vessel program manager for the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Argosy sits along Mission Beach on Friday in Tulalip. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Argosy sits along Mission Beach on Friday in Tulalip. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“This boat has been on our radar since 2014,” he said. “It’s been out of reach because it’s been out of our jurisdiction. It’s changed hands a couple of times.”

After receiving reports about the abandoned yacht, his program contacted Snohomish County, the state Department of Ecology and the Tulalip Tribal Police Department.

Tribal police did not return an inquiry Friday from The Daily Herald.

The derelict vessel program started in 2002, and in that time more than 580 abandoned or problem boats have been recovered from Washington waters.

Once the Argosy came to a rest on Mission Beach, Heltne’s neighbor looked up the name and found what appeared to be the boat’s history.

It was written by Rick Etsell on the Classic Yacht Association’s website.

Etsell owned the boat for about a decade. He purchased her in the mid-1990s and made repairs with his children, now adults. Etsell lives in Anacortes.

He learned of the Argosy’s demise from a reporter on Friday, and looked at pictures of the wreckage.

Based on what he saw, he doesn’t think there’s any chance to save the Argosy.

“Oh, I just absolutely loved that boat,” he said. “She was a beautiful design. I have always loved her, so it’s sad to see.”

The Argosy in Longbranch, Pierce County, in 2002. (Rick Etsell)

The Argosy in Longbranch, Pierce County, in 2002. (Rick Etsell)

The Argosy was built by Edward E. Johnson in Tacoma, and launched in late 1925, according to Etsell’s research.

“When built she was the pride of the fleet at the Tacoma Yacht Club, and spent most summers cruising to Alaska,” Etsell wrote.

In March 1933, a fatal explosion on the Argosy took the life of her owner, Edward A. Rich.

According to stories passed down through the decades, Rich had overfilled the boat’s gas tanks after the price of fuel dropped to 10 cents per gallon. Soon after, he and a mechanic were onboard when the worker mentioned the smell of gasoline.

Rich ignored the warning and lit a cigarette. The mechanic got nervous and left the boat.

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

The following year, a man and his son purchased what was left of the yacht for $350, according to Coast Guard records. They planned to renovate the Argosy, but sold her again before the project was complete.

A loose rope hangs from the stern of the Argosy on Friday in Tulalip. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A loose rope hangs from the stern of the Argosy on Friday in Tulalip. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

From 1942 to 1944, the boat became part of the Coast Guard’s fleet. The Argosy changed hands several more times before Etsell purchased her from his sister.

He and his family refurbished the boat together, and about 10 years later, he decided to sell.

“It’s a lot to take care of a boat that size,” he said. “Our kids are grown and gone, and we didn’t need a boat that big. It was just time to move on.”

Etsell is a naval architect by trade, but now spends much of his time as a captain. Lately he’s been sailing a wooden vessel called the Malibu. She was built in 1926, at 100 feet long.

Wood, from the Department of Natural Resources, first noticed the Argosy at a marina in La Conner. Later the boat moved to Everett’s Union Slough, near Seacrest Marina.

“Apparently it broke free,” Wood said. “We tried to take control of it, but before we could the tide went down and it dislodged itself.”

That’s likely when she washed toward Tulalip.

Last weekend, Heltne watched the Argosy float by as the storm rolled in. After almost a century at sea, the boat’s final journey may have ended right outside her door.

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

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