Marketing materials show the 85-foot Sierra Rose gracefully motoring across the blue waters of Lake Tahoe. Tuesday, the 4,000-square-foot yacht struck a less glamorous pose partially submerged.
The $3.2 million vessel billed as the largest noncommercial craft on the lake sank early Monday morning near South Lake Tahoe's Tahoe Keys Marina, officials said.
Witnesses told local media outlets they heard crunching sounds around 9 p.m. Sunday. By 4 a.m. El Dorado County environmental officials were called out to monitor the situation. The concern was that the vessel would leak fuel or sewage into the lake, said Barbara Houghton, an environmental health manager for the county.
"We went to make sure there hadn't been any releases into the lake," Houghton said.
Officials have not detected any leaks, she said.
Absorbent booms circle the sunken yacht as a precaution.
The next period of caution will come when the craft is raised to the surface, Houghton said. The effort to raise the three-bedroom, 3 1/2-bath boat is expected to begin in the next couple of days, she said.
The three-deck "luxury motor yacht" has a helicopter landing pad and carries a 20-foot speedboat.
The yacht is owned by Sierra Rose LLC, which is owned by Mike Stewart. Stewart did not return calls for comment.
According to the Tahoe Daily Tribune website, Heather Contreras, a witness who was visiting the area from Turlock, said more than a dozen people were on the vessel when the loud sounds began.
Lt. David Stevenson, a spokesman for the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, said there was some sort of mechanical problem that the operator thought was fixed before the boat began to sink in earnest.
It was moored to the dock at the time it began taking on water, Stevenson said.
The yacht was big, but not necessarily loved. A 2006 story by the Tahoe Daily Tribune asked whether the Sierra Rose was a "beauty or beast."
Some called it an illegal houseboat; others said the hulking boat blocked their lake view.
Ron Parker, front desk clerk at Tahoe Keys Property Association, had aesthetic concerns.
"It was pretty darn ugly," Parker said. "It literally looked like a townhome on a barge."