John Wayne’s former yacht the Norwester sinks off the San Juan Islands
The ship sustained damage to its hull in mid-April. The owner is now working to save the ship.
SAN JUAN COUNTY, Washington – A historic yacht, which was used during World War II and later belonged to John Wayne, sank in the San Juan Islands of Washington.
On April 17, the 76 foot Norwester sustained heavy hull damage when it struck submerged rocks near the port of Prevost on Stuart Island, Coast Guard officials said. All eight people on board were rescued.
“It will be determined later that there was actually a one in four foot hole in the hull,” said United States Coast Guard Sea Master Michael Clark. “The water pumps on the ship could not keep up with the flooding.”
The Coast Guard issued an order from the harbor master to the shipowner, demanding that the shipowner take the necessary steps to save the ship.
On May 9, the vessel was held in position with several anchors off McCracken Point on Henry Island. A reflective containment dam has also been deployed to help mitigate the environmental impact. First shared photos showed most of the craft was upright but low in the water, although footage captured by SkyKING on Monday revealed that only the tip of the bow remained above the water.
There is no immediate major threat to the environment, according to the Coast Guard, which added that a GPS beacon and light have been installed to help ships avoid the crashed craft. It is not expected to present a danger to navigation at its present location.
Towline Marine Assist helped answer Mayday’s initial call. Captain Deb Fritz said he sent a diver into the water, who reported that the keel had been dislodged. The ship had nearly 500 gallons of diesel on board at the time, which has since been pumped out.
the Norwester was built in 1932 and belonged to Charles Gilbert. It was sold in 1937 and used as a patrol boat during World War II. It was eventually sold to Hollywood legend John Wayne.
Recently it was at La Conner as a museum showcasing Wayne owned items and props in his films before they were sold. In 2017, Evening visited the historic boat.
Rick and Jackie Rutherford now own the Norwester, and were preparing to launch high-end charters on the wooden yacht, 100% of net profits are spent on cancer research. The ship was on its last shaking cruise when it sank, the Rutherfords said.
“We feel so lucky that we got to share 3 and a half years with her and we made some of the best memories of our lives that we wouldn’t trade for anything”, Rick Rutherford wrote.
Although the couple initially raised funds on GoFundMe to salvage and restore the ship, further damage investigations have led them to abandon the idea and return the donations. Now they are working to get it removed, but said they are struggling with their insurance companies to cover the cost and liability of the rescue operations.
The Coast Guard said as long as the owners continue to work on the issue, there is no deadline for the removal, as rescue operations are often dynamic and complicated. In the meantime, private rescue companies check the site twice a day and report any spills or changes to Coast Guard supervisors.
“The initial priorities of the Coast Guard are to ensure that this does not become a danger to maritime traffic or a danger to navigation, and that it does not become a danger to the environment immediately after the operation of search and rescue, ”said Clark. “These steps, I repeat, have been taken and are being actively taken to monitor the situation as it progresses.”