Environment

Meeting to determine salvage plan for capsized Spirit of Sacramento

The Spirit of Sacramento capsized near Bethel Island

The 87-foot paddlewheel boat The Spirit of Sacramento began taking on water late Saturday night and capsized early Sunday morning near Bethel Island in Contra Costa County, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
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The 87-foot paddlewheel boat The Spirit of Sacramento began taking on water late Saturday night and capsized early Sunday morning near Bethel Island in Contra Costa County, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

A meeting is planned later Tuesday to determine how best to get the big capsized fake paddlewheeler Spirit of Sacramento out of the water near Bethel Island.

The former excursion boat that once operated out of Sacramento began taking on water late Saturday night and went under early Sunday near Bethel Island in Contra Costa County.

Since then, the U.S. Coast Guard has been working with a private salvage company to find out the best way to remove the 87-foot boat. An afternoon meeting will be held between the Coast Guard and Global Diving and Salvage of Vallejo.

On Sunday, Global Diving and Salvage closed off vents and other possible routes that diesel fuel could get out and pollute Delta waters. An estimated 600 gallons of diesel fuel may be on board. So far, only a sheen of oil has been visible on the surface.

“We are going to be meeting with them today to discuss plans for them to salvage the vessel,” said Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. j.g. Nicole Emmons. “They are going to be looking at schematics of the vessel.”

Emmons declined to speak on how the boat would be salvaged. The investigation into why the boat capsized is ongoing, she said.

“I’m sure we will know more once the vessel is out of the water when we can look at it,” she said.

The Coast Guard has not yet been able to contact the vessel’s owner or the two people who were on board when the vessel took on water. The two onboard escaped on a dinghy.

The Spirit of Sacramento once operated as a tour boat, taking passengers on trips up and down the Sacramento River and into the Delta.

In 2006, Sacramento Yacht Charters entered into a 10-year contract with the city of Sacramento to operate the faux paddlewheeler out of Old Sacramento. In 2008, the city began the process of terminating the contract because, it charged, the company's schedule was unreliable and its projected revenues fell short.

The company acknowledged problems but cited a drop in ridership due to the economy and the intractable negotiating positions of Sacramento city officials. Ultimately, Sacramento Yacht Charters went bankrupt, and its fleet was sold. The company was replaced in 2009 by Hornblower Cruises & Events, which is still in operation.

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The Spirit of Sacramento paddlewheeler was not operating in any tour-boat capacity at the time that it sunk and was strictly a private vessel, Emmons said.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews

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