Time and tide needed to get remains of wrecked freighter off beach

COOS BAY, Ore. (AP) - With the stubborn stern of the New Carissa refusing to budge Tuesday, salvage crews looked for new ways to pull the wreck from the beach while waiting for time and the tides to give them a hand.

''We'll be tweaking and dredging and trying this and trying that,'' said Bill Milwee, a representative of the ship's Japanese owners who has been involved in the salvage operating since the woodchip freighter ran aground eight months ago. ''We'll just keep at it and keep dragging.''

After grudgingly being turned to sea Sunday and dragged from the hole it had dug for itself in the sand over the past eight months, the 120-foot stern section has defied efforts to refloat it and tow it to the deep ocean for burial.

''She's not much of a lady,'' Milwee said of the stubborn wreck.

The propellor and the remnants of the rudder housing may be digging into the sand like an anchor as the salvage tug Salvage Chief works to winch the stern off the beach, Milwee said.

After two days without significant movement, salvage crews decided to add a second tug, the Atlantic Salvor, to the pulling effort, though it will take some days to hook up.

Meanwhile, tides are gradually swelling over the next seven days to bring deeper water to the shore, increasing chances the New Carissa will finally float just enough to drag her across the sand. Hide tide Tuesday was 6.2 feet above mean, but will swell to 8.9 feet by Oct. 25.

''That's a lot of help,'' Milwee said.

Other ideas being considered including trying to lift the propeller out of the sand by letting more water flood into the opposite end of the wreck and cutting a hole in the hull to create a new tow point closer to the water level.

''Somebody comes up with a brilliant idea, and maybe you try it, and maybe you take him out and hang him,'' quipped Milwee.

The Salvage Chief is stabilized against three anchors dropped to seaward and is pulling with three deck winches on lines tied off to the deck of the New Carissa. From this position it can move in close to the wreck to dredge away obstructing sand, or move farther off to improve the angle of its pull.

The Atlantic Salvor would pull with its propellor against a towline tied to the New Carissa.

Forecasts are for good weather through the weekend, easing worries that winter storms could arrive and shut down the salvage effort until spring.

The 640-foot freighter ran aground Feb. 4 while it was standing off Coos Bay in a winter storm waiting to pick up a load of wood chips and has proved a stubborn subject for salvage.

Pounded in the surf, the hull cracked and leaked oil that fouled beaches and shorebirds. Authorities decided to set the thick fuel oil on fire. But the fire did not consume all the oil and the New Carissa broke in two, spilling more oil.

A tug managed to pull the bow off the beach, but the towline snapped in a violent storm, allowing it to run aground again 80 miles north at Waldport. Once it was hauled off again, the bow was towed far to sea and finally sunk by a Navy torpedo.

Crews have worked since May to patch cracks in the stern, remove the superstructure, and chop off the jagged remnants of a cargo hold. Once the stern is removed, crews will still have to remove a cargo crane that remains mired in the sand.


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