EVERETT — For decades, the Midas was a commercial fishing vessel that ventured between Alaska and Washington.
It was like a middle man, purchasing fish from boats at sea and selling it at ports in Seattle, Juneau, Ketchikan or wherever else the market called.
The Midas had a prosperous past. In 1987, it sold for more than $4 million.
Today, the 100-footer is far removed from its glory days. It looks haggard on a muddy bank near the I-5 bridge over the Snohomish River between Marysville and Everett.
Leaks allow silty river water to seep inside. The engines and generator are in need of serious repair.
The boat has floated around Steamboat Slough for almost four years.
In April, it was sunk in the slough and surrounded by a light shimmer in the water. The sheen was caused by 10 gallons of spilled fuel, according to Larry Altose of the state Department of Ecology. By April 28, a private diving company made its way to the vessel, extracting about 30 gallons of potentially hazardous materials.
The Midas was refloated and towed from the slough to the main stem of the Snohomish River on June 13. The move was arranged by the owner.
The Department of Ecology inspected the boat June 16 and found nothing else hazardous.
For now, it’s on private property and there’s not much for state agencies to do.
“Our involvement is with the spill,” Altose said. “We have our eyes on it.”
The boat is being monitored because it’s made of wood, which could break apart in the water, said Troy Wood, manager of the derelict vessels removal program at the state Department of Natural Resources.
“Because the owner is responsive and has been able to remove the vessel, it’s become a low priority for our program,” Wood said. “The removal priority is not fixed. It’s fluid based on the situation.”
These days, it’s what’s called a priority four (out of five). That means it is under watch but doesn’t pose an immediate threat to health or habitat.
Abandoned boats are somewhat common for the area, Wood said.
From June 2015 to July 2017, six boats were taken out of the Steamboat Slough area, amounting to about $450,000 in removal costs. The program’s 2017-19 budget is nearly $2 million statewide. The funding comes from recreational and commercial vessel fees.
In 2015, a 105-foot charter yacht called Safari Spirit was removed from the slough.
Unlike with most of the boats monitored by the agencies, the owner of the Midas is cooperating.
Richard Cook, 46, bought the boat in November. He said he hopes it can be moved out of the river in coming months.
One of his first decisions was to register it as the Hannah Marie, his wife’s name.
As the boat sits on the bank, locals are taking notice.
“It’s like a magnet to people,” Cook said. “Most people when they see it, they stop.”
When bicyclist Sile Kiernan stopped to take a look, it wasn’t just out of curiosity.
“I was concerned because it looked like a wreck and was worried about fuel spillage in our lovely Snohomish River,” Kiernan said in an email.
Whether it’s a fascinating relic or an eyesore, the boat is famous, Cook said.
“All I have to do is mention the name ‘Midas’ and everyone knows what it is,” he said. “It’s gotten a lot of bad press, too.”
The vessel was built in Seattle in 1942, during World War II. It started fishing voyages in 1948.
It’s been owned by at least half a dozen companies.
In August 1993, the Midas’ operator fell asleep at the helm, causing the boat to hit a rock, flood, capsize and sink south of Juneau. The crash was responsible for about 300 gallons of diesel fuel spilling into the water and $862,000 in boat damage, according to a U.S. Coast Guard report.
Nine people were on board. No one was injured.
The boat also spilled oil into the water in 1994 and 1996.
After 2002, the Midas didn’t have a Coast Guard certification or fishing license.
Cook was able to acquire the boat after its owner died in 2014.
He said he bought it so his father could fish in Alaska.
Donald Cook, 76, owned a business in Ballard that built equipment for commercial fishing boats for 35 years, but he was never able to buy one of his own.
A third generation of the Cook family is involved with the Hannah Marie.
Gabriel Cook, 19, is Richard’s son. He’s making repairs.
The vessel could make its journey north by next summer, Richard Cook said.
To ready the boat for the voyage, the Hannah Marie will need a new refrigeration system, which could cost about $50,000.
An online fundraiser was set up to make the vessel seaworthy.
Joseph Thompson: 425-339-3430; jthompson @heraldnet.com. Twitter: @JoeyJThomp.
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