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That sinking feeling going away

The WICCA, which has been afloat in Eagle Harbor since the 1940s, will soon be barged away and demolished. - Photo courtesy of Tami Allen, city harbor master
The WICCA, which has been afloat in Eagle Harbor since the 1940s, will soon be barged away and demolished.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Tami Allen, city harbor master

The houseboat WICCA will be barged away and scrapped.

The city sees it as a hazard that needs to be removed. Live-aboards see it as a symbol of their community that deserves restoration.

In Eagle Harbor, Thursday afternoon the houseboat WICCA was listing so heavily away from the float it was moored to that water sloshed just below the knob on its cabin door.

The vessel has been the cause of several 911 calls over the last four years, first for breaking anchor and drifting, and more recently for its uneasy list.

WICCA recently became city property after a code noncompliance notice was lodged and the owner agreed to turn over its title. The city expects a barge and crane to pick the houseboat up sometime in the next week and haul it away for destruction.

“It’s sad,” Harbormaster Tami Allen said. “It’s been out there for as long as anyone can remember.”

According to Allen the walls of the cabin are saturated beyond repair and she worries it could sink deeper even before the barge arrives or breakup as it is slung on deck.

“We are taking a little risk knowing that it could get a little worse,” Allen said. “We’re kind of nursing this patient through hospice.”

WICCA’s last owner, Daniel Lynn, had taken over the houseboat hoping to give it new life.

He said when the city gave him the choice of turning over the boat’s title, having the boat hauled out and refitted, or having it seized and paying for its demolition, time and money left him only one choice.

“I had hoped that I’d be able to fix it and raise the money to have it out of the water,” he said. “When I didn’t have the time it became problematic very quickly.”

Under the agreement the city will pay for WICCA’s removal. It will not be removed under the state’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program, because though WICCA is registered with the state Department of Licensing, the Department of Natural Resources, which oversees derelicts, does not consider it a boat.

Allen said that the city has contacted a barge working at the University of Washington, and because it won’t have to redeploy its equipment, the cost of removing WICCA will be around $6,000. But public money spent on 911 call responses and at least one Coast Guard helicopter fly-over also had to be considered she said.

“Those are the un-billable costs that would have continued had we not acted,” Allen said.

Other liveaboards believe the city is rushing WICCA to an untimely death. Ryan Landworth, who owns the float the houseboat is tied to, said WICCA was restorable that its heavy list is mostly due to rainwater from December storms.

The removal of WICCA, he said, is symptomatic of a larger effort by the city to pressure houseboats out of the harbor.

Landworth said the city should have expended its energy and money helping save WICCA instead of setting a negative precedent in its dealing with liveaboards.

“This definitely didn’t have to go in this direction,” Landworth said. “It could have gone in a much more positive direction that would have unified the community and given liveaboards confidence in the city’s intentions. Instead it has worked to polarize the community.”

Landworth owned WICCA before Lynn and at least a half-dozen other islanders have called the shake-sided houseboat home since it was built in the 1940s.

The WICCA began life as a floating boathouse moored off downtown Winslow before being remodeled as a residence in the ‘60s. For decades it shifted from owner to owner in south Eagle Harbor amid an ever-changing fleet of liveaboards.

Mike Martin lived on WICCA from 1994 to 1997. His son Booker was born onboard and a photo of his family and WICCA appeared in an issue of National Geographic.

“To me that will definitely be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Martin, who has since relocated to Shoreline. “That houseboat has way too much history to be destroyed.”

Allen said the city is simply acting to remove a dangerous structure and is not persecuting liveaboards.

“I don’t have any problem with people living on boats,” she said. “But I’m demanding that they do maintenance on them and keep them healthy.”

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