33-foot boat sinks in Vero Beach City Marina overnight

VERO BEACH — A derelict 33-foot cabin cruiser partially sank in the Vero Beach City Marina overnight, spreading some gasoline in a section of the Indian River Lagoon with negligible tidal flushing, city officials said Sunday.

Marina crews used floating booms to encircle the boat and contain the fuel and some oil coming from the boat that is moored with 90 other boats in the marina. Another 15 boats are moored out in the harbor that is just north of the Merrill P. Barber Bridge on the east side of the Indian River Lagoon.

Steve Wilinski’s 47-foot boat is tied up next to the cabin cruiser. The cabin cruiser was floating when he went to sleep last night aboard his boat. He woke to the smell of gasoline.

Then he saw the sheen of gasoline floating on top of the water.

Wilinski’s first reaction was, “What do you do?”

Marina crews quickly came in with pollution soaking pads to soak up fuel and oil inside the booms. Workers used dip nets to remove floating containers of acetone, hydraulic fluid and oil in the back of the sunken boat. A small amount of got out into the marina, leaving a light sheen on the water’s surface.

Workers from TowBoat U.S., of Fort Pierce, were called and with the aid of pumps refloated the boat at 11:30 a.m.

Marina manager Tim Grabenbauer said the boat hadn’t be moved for about two years and city officials were already in the process of getting the craft sold to pay $7,000 in unpaid mooring fees.

“I haven’t been able to reach the owner” Grabenbauer said. The owner’s address is unknown.

Grabenbauer couldn’t yet say why the boat sank. There has been heavy rain in the last week and “maybe the bilge pump failed” or a pipe failed, he said.

The cabin cruiser is one of about eight boats the marina has had to remove after the economic recession. “Before then we never had a problem” with boats having to be seized for nonpayment of fees, said the marina manager who has worked there for 17 years.

The sinking occurred in a shallow section of the lagoon that has lost sea grasses and periodically has problems with algae.