Old Tug Gets No Respect, No Respect at All
Written by Marc Albert Published: FRIDAY, 11 MAY 2007 23:35
It's a case of piracy on the low seas.
A 700-ton antique tugboat, apparently mistakenly sunk by slapstick vandals, sits submerged in Estuary mud as the Canadian owner of the ship faces deadlines and unknown costs.
The 150-foot-long tug Respect was moored to a barge for about a year, approximately 1,100 feet west of the Park Street Bridge. About six months ago, the barge sank. The Respect remained afloat, but listed on ebbing tides.
Like a ghost ship in a mothballed fleet, the uninhabited boat was a familiar sight.
Perhaps a little too familiar.
Workers at a company adjacent to the Respect observed vandals making repeated trips to the vessel and stealing metal parts, presumably to sell to scrap dealers.
According to employees of a nearby firm, on the afternoon of April 9 three unidentified men set sail aboard a large but barely seaworthy kayak for a metal scavenging mission aboard the Respect. The three later emerged from below deck, hoisting sacks of semi-precious booty. As bag after bag of scrap was lowered unto their puny craft, the three men's boat appeared comically overloaded. Just after the second man boarded to make his escape, their tiny ship foundered and an instant later, was scuttled. According to witnesses, the scene dredged up Vaudeville memories as one of the three couldn't swim and splashed around the Estuary in true slapstick fashion.
It was no laughing matter a day later. At about 8 a.m. on April 10, the Respect itself sank. Dillabough of the Corps and Chris Peterson, the area manager of Dutra Construction, suspect that the vandals pilfered the Respect's seacock valve, an object enabling seawater to cool marine engines. Dillabough said seacock valves are typically made of brass and copper. "It looked good, it looked shiny, and they took it."
According to experts, thefts of building materials, especially copper, have become nearly epidemic in the Bay Area, as redemption prices for scrap metal have risen. Rising popularity of methamphetamines has also spurred a burgeoning trade and more brazen thefts as addicts seek quick bucks to feed their fix.
"Basically when a building becomes abandoned, people flock to it to scavenge the porcelain, like toilets and sinks, copper wiring, copper and copper tubing," said Art Brandt of the Alameda Police Department's property crimes unit. "I think copper right now is going for like $3 a pound. [These thefts are] not something unique to Alameda, Brandt said.
Peterson said the valve probably would have netted the vandals between $1 and $10 from a scrap yard, if it hadn't sunk with the vandal's hapless get-away boat. Costs to raise the Respect could easily run more than $100,000.
Ron Cook, the Canadian owner of the ship, did not return repeated telephone calls.
Several people familiar with the case said rumors are circulating that Cook purchased the Respect for between $1 and $100 about six months ago.
Careful . . .I Have a Generator and I'm not afraid to use it !