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Ship’s Bow Pulled Off Oregon Beach

March 9, 1999

WALDPORT, Ore. (AP) _ This time, when a tug pulled the oil-laden wreck of the New Carissa out to sea, there were no high-fives, no champagne bottles, no celebratory cigars.

Instead, salvage crews were guardedly optimistic on Monday that the cargo ship’s broken bow would weather the 248-mile trip to its watery grave and not wash ashore for a third time.

``There is no sigh of relief until she’s on the bottom,″ said Bill Milwee, salvage consultant to the ship’s Japanese owners.

Waves and a favorable tide helped the 420-foot bow section break free from the surf Monday at 3:16 a.m. It was pulled off shore by the 7,200-horsepower tug Sea Victory, one of the most powerful on the West Coast. By nightfall, it was 52 miles out to sea.

It headed over the horizon in the morning sun _ with a rainbow over it _ and was to be sunk by a Navy destroyer in thousands of feet of water, probably Wednesday or Thursday.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Dawayne Penberthy said the trick will be to shoot enough holes in the bow to sink it without rupturing the fuel tanks, which still contain up to 130,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil.

Just in case, he said, a Coast Guard skimmer boat was following behind the wreck.

A Coast Guard cutter was supposed to do the shooting, but officials were able to bring in the USS David R. Ray from its home port in Bremerton, Wash. The destroyer will use its 5-inch guns to fire on the New Carissa. The goal is to hit the cargo hold, just below the water line and above the fuel tanks, so the ship will sink quickly and evenly.

The saga of the New Carissa began Feb. 4, when the 639-foot freighter with 400,000 gallons of fuel oil on board ran aground off Coos Bay.

About half of that was burned off by explosives experts. Hours after the Feb. 10 fire, the ship split in two, spilling a total of 70,000 gallons.

Efforts to tow the bow out to sea last week failed when it broke away and washed ashore 80 miles north at this tiny town along the Central Oregon Coast.

Milwee said that this time around, the weather shouldn’t be a problem. Winds were expected to actually decrease and seas should run no more than 15 feet.

``There is no reason we should part a tow line in this weather,″ he said.

Meanwhile, the ship’s 220-foot stern section still sits mired in the sand at Coos Bay. Salvage crews have yet to decide what to do with it.

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