Sunken sailboat near Browns Flat towed closer to shore, says coast guard

The sunken sailboat in the St. John River near Browns Flat, N.B., has finally moved, but it's not out of the water just yet.

While it's still sitting on the bottom, the Not a Starship was dragged about 300 metres closer to shore on Friday. By the end of the day, it was sitting about 100 metres offshore.

"It's a step in the right direction," said local resident Rob Thom, watching the operation from the shore.

"It's far enough from the main channel to reduce the risk of collision, but it still needs to come out."

For months, the boat had been sitting on the bottom more than 400 metres offshore, with only the top portion of its two masts visible to other vessels.

Not a Starship as seen on July 5, 2024.
By the end of Friday, Not a Starship was left about 100 metres offshore. (Mia Urquhart/CBC)

On Friday morning, two men arrived in a barge — one diver and one operating the boat. For several hours, the diver worked above and below the surface while the barge often repositioned itself around the sunken boat.

For hours, it was difficult to tell from shore what the game plan was. At one point, they managed to position the masts — which had been tilting up river — straight up before they tipped and rested pointing down river.

Then, at 3:15 p.m. AT, the barge suddenly started to drag the boat along the bottom toward shore. After a series of pulls and some repositioning, they hauled the boat to within about 100 metres of the shore.

By 5 p.m., they again managed to pull the masts to a vertical position, before it tipped over once again.

Around 5:30, they left the sailboat and motored away up river.

Not a Starship as s.een on July 5, 2024
Partway through Friday's salvage operation, the sailboat was pulled upright about 400 metres offshore. (Mia Urquhart/CBC)

Residents around Browns Flat have been keeping an eye on the sailboat since last fall. As winter approached, the sailboat was still moored in the river.

By January, ice had formed around the boat. But its owner, Jordan Tatton, dismissed concerns about the ice, saying he was confident the sturdy vessel could survive the winter.

On Feb. 13, the boat slowly started to sink into the ice. Before long, with an early breakup of the ice, it was sitting on the bottom.

Initially, Transport Canada was the lead agency in the case and it gave the owner until April 30 to remove the boat, but with some efforts made by the owner, they gave him extra time.

Not a Starship as seen on July 5, 2024.
According to the coast guard, the salvage operation will continue next week. (Michael Heenan/CBC)

However, the file was transferred to the Canadian Coast Guard on June 11, according to an emailed response to CBC News.

On July 3, the coast guard ordered the owner to mark the vessel with a clear and visible buoy. As well, they ordered that a removal plan for the Not a Starship be provided by July 8.

The coast guard said a local salvage company assumed ownership and liability of the vessel on July 4. It said the salvor provided a removal plan for the vessel.

The email also said the salvage company began the removal process on Friday, which will continue next week.