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Bill for raising sunken yacht tops $100,000

The 65-foot Find Time houseboat is docked along the dike road Thursday morning, Sept. 5, shortly after being raised from the bed of the St. Croix River. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Randy Hanson)1 / 3
An Edward Kraemer & Sons crane is silhouetted against the night sky as it slowly raises the sunken yacht Wednesday night, Sept. 4. The salvage operation went on throughout the night.2 / 3
Water is pumped from the yacht Wednesday night, Sept. 4, as a construction crane slowly raises the boat to the surface of the St. Croix River. Six big pumps were used in the salvage operation, according to Gordy Jarvis, who headed it up.3 / 3

The second try proved to be the charm for the crew working to raise a sunken houseboat in the St. Croix River at Hudson.

The 65-foot, three-story SkipperLiner regained buoyancy at about 4:45 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, following a night of pumping water from the boat while a tall construction crane lifted it.

“It was not a piece of cake, I tell you,” reported Gordy Jarvis, who headed up the salvage operation.

The second effort to recover the boat that went down six days earlier began early Wednesday morning, Sept. 4.

Tjader & Highstrom, a New Richmond company that installs power and communication lines, made borings in the riverbed beneath the boat in an attempt to place straps under it.

The plan was to attach the straps to the hoist cradle on a crane, and lift the boat as pumps were bailing water from it.

But the drill came out of the riverbed 150 feet from the boat, Jarvis said, requiring a new plan.

Another boat pulled a half-inch cable under the sunken houseboat, and the cable was used to get the straps under the hull.

An Edward Kraemer & Sons crane from the Stillwater bridge construction site arrived sometime around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, and was hooked to the straps under the houseboat in what became about an hour-and-a-half long process.

With the houseboat hitched to the crane, six large pumps were used to remove water from boat as it was slowly lifted.

Jarvis said he leased the pumps – including a 10-inch, an 8-inch and four 4-inch pumps – from the city of Afton.

He expressed appreciation to the Afton city government for allowing the pumps to be used, saying they made a big difference in getting the boat to the surface on the second effort.

He also thanked the city of Hudson for providing security and other assistance.

The first attempt to raise the boat was made on Labor Day, Sept. 2. It came to an end when a cleat connecting the boat to the crane cable came loose.

The recovery operation went on throughout the night of Sept. 4-5, with the pumps running and the crane providing upward pressure.

As the water level inside the boat was reduced, the water pressure from the outside caused other breaches that workers were forced to repair.

“We had windows that broke as we were picking it up that we had to patch,” Jarvis said. “We had a side door that the window got sucked right out of from the pumps, so we had to fix that.”

He said it was dangerous work to be inside the houseboat as the pumps were running and the vessel shifted in the crane sling lifting it upward. Furniture and refrigerators were sliding around and falling over. “We all had to dive off twice,” Jarvis said. “We got video and pictures of all that. (It was) pretty wild.”

Jarvis was hired by the boat owners’ insurance company to conduct the salvage operation, he said. He said the cost of the operation will exceed $100,000.

While the boat is named Find Time on at least one record, it is owned by a limited liability corporation by the name of Fine Time LLC. The four partners in the corporation include William Fogerty of Forest Lake, Minn., and Twin Cities businessmen Joe Caldwell and Travis Carter, who are involved in the technology industry.

Jarvis said his company Jarvis & Sons will transport the Find Time to the Mississippi River at Prescott, where it will be met by a tugboat from St. Paul that will take it to La Crosse. La Crosse is where SkipperLiner, the company that made the boat, is located. Jarvis said he assumes SkipperLiner will rebuild and refurnish the interior of the boat.

A plastic hose that came loose from the sea chest in the bottom of boat is the reason it sank, according to Jarvis. He said the water came in faster than the boat’s small bilge pumps could handle. Once the boat began leaning at about 15 degrees, more water came in from two open starboard side windows, he said. Then water began pouring in from air vents in the bow and engine room.

“The water started coming into those compartments, and the main compartment, which flooded the boat, which sunk the boat,” Jarvis said. “I’m 99.9 percent positive.”

Jarvis said he is pleased with three things about the salvage operation: “Nobody got significantly hurt. We saved the environment on the St. Croix River by not having a diesel or gasoline spill that would have spread through the whole area. And the boat’s floating.”

“What more do you want?” he asked, sporting a gash on his nose that he said came from a collision with a pipe.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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