TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan environmental regulators have ordered a sunken boat to be removed from Lake Michigan bottomlands in Grand Traverse Bay.
Todd Elsenheimer, who owns the boat, said that’s been his plan all along after his 33-foot boat sank June 19 after taking on water during a family outing. There were 10 people onboard that day, all rescued from the water by a U.S. Coast Guard diver.
Elsenheimer said he maintains an insurance policy for the lake cruiser and his policy carrier company awaits official notification from the state to begin salvage efforts. He said having insurance on such a large boat is the responsible thing to do.
“If you’re smart at all it’s a good thing to have,” Elsenheimer said.
“I expect I’ll get a letter from the state and at that point my insurance company will take the ball,” he said. “It’s going to be a process.”
Seeing photographs and videos of his sunken boat has been disheartening but he’s thankful nobody was hurt, Elsenheimer said.
“I have to focus on the fact that everyone was safe and not focus on material things.”
Both federal and state authorities said on Thursday they are working to arrange the salvage operation.
“We don’t want that left in the water,” said Nick Assendelft, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.
He said no fines or fees have yet been issued to the boat owner and will be determined based on how well the situation is resolved to regulators’ satisfaction.
Lt. Barton S. Nanney, Coast Guard public information officer, said the military agency continues to monitor the sunken boat, which does not appear to have leaked any of the 70 gallons of fuel believed to be onboard.
Additionally, he said Coast Guard safety officers and pollution responders will assist with the recovery effort, whenever that is scheduled.
Elsenheimer said he doesn’t know what caused his boat to sink two weeks ago.
“The boat was making strange sounds. It’s like it happened in under a minute — really fast,” he said.
Elsenheimer said he jumped into the bay to double-check that he hadn’t forgotten to place the plug in the boat before heading out; but that wasn’t the problem.
The leaking must have been happening for a while, he said, because by the time he looked in the engine compartment there was more water than the vessel’s two bilge pumps could unload.
“Water was coming in faster than I could imagine,” Elsenheimer said.
The engine stopped working so he wasn’t able to drive the boat toward the shoreline. Instead, he radioed the Coast Guard for help, he said.
Elsenheimer said he speculates that perhaps he hit floating debris in the bay and damaged the boat’s bellows, or maybe a hose got knocked loose.
Given he used the boat on Lake Michigan in Leland two weeks prior to the incident and he uses a professional to do maintenance work, Elsenheimer said it’s “hard to understand what could have happened.”
He said he bought the boat used two years ago and last summer took a successful trip with his family to South Manitou Island.