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Police boat sinks at dock

Contributed photo This Mercer Island Police boat sank on January 11. It took a salvage company five hours to raise the vessel from the waters of Lake Washington. -
Contributed photo This Mercer Island Police boat sank on January 11. It took a salvage company five hours to raise the vessel from the waters of Lake Washington.
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The Mercer Island Police Department is getting ship shape for the summer, and will add another vessel to its marine patrol fleet by the year’s end.

The city was presented with a unique and lucky scenario that provided the money needed for a new boat. Patrol 11, the main police vessel, sank last January, and the $170,000 needed to rebuild it was covered by the city’s insurance policy.

“It was only hanging by the ropes,” Sgt. Keith McDonough said of Patrol 11 after it sank. McDonough leads the marine unit.

Patrol 11 was tied to its dock beneath the East Channel Bridge on the Northeast corner of the Island when it sank. The ship went down because a valve below the waterline was somehow stuck open, either from a chunk of ice in the lake caused by the sub-freezing weather that day or a piece of debris in the lake. The valve is an exit point for fresh water being pumped out of the engine’s cooling system.

The valves on most boats are shut for the winter when they’re not in use, McDonough said. The patrol boat, however, is used constantly throughout the year so it doesn’t get fully winterized.

Police discovered the sunken ship at the dock at about 10 p.m. on January 11.

It took a salvage company five hours to raise it, McDonough said, and it was towed to a yard in Kenmore to be rebuilt. All of the boat’s components, including the two Mercury MerCruiser 7.4-liter engines, electronics, wiring, marine radar, global positioning satellite system, marine VHF radios, police radio and extensive medical rescue equipment, were destroyed beyond repair.

In addition to the rebuild of Patrol 11, City Council members approved the purchase of a new, third vessel for the police department last Monday.

Patrol 14 is expected to be constructed and delivered in about six months.

The new vessel will be a 31-foot aluminum hull with a foam stabilizing collar and enclosed cabin. It will cost the city about $280,000.

Patrol 14 will have the same capabilities as Patrol 11, and will be made by SAFE Boats International based in Port Orchard, Wash. According to the MIPD, it will be equipped with four stroke engines, which are more fuel efficient and use about 30 percent less fuel when compared to a two-stroke motor.

Funds to replace the boats are set aside over a 15-year period and Patrol 12, the department’s secondary boat, was scheduled for replacement in 2009.

Rather than purchase a new Patrol 12 as previously planned, the police asked City Council to forward the funds to buy the new Patrol 14.

The 23-foot-long Patrol 12 is going to be designated as the third boat and stored most of the year on a trailer. It will primarily be used as a back-up during maintenance operations of Patrol 11 and 14. It will also be in operation for summer events such as SeaFair and Summer Celebration.

Patrol 12 was also recently refitted with new engines, two smaller 225-horsepower outboards, which are more fuel efficient two-strokes than the 250-horsepower motors it used to have. With the new engines, the vessel will be able to reach maximum speeds of about 80 mph and easily cruise at 60 mph. It gets the best fuel consumption while cruising between 45 and 50 mph.

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