It was an unusual but not unheard-of sight at the Lake of the Ozarks. On Monday, May 10, a 40-foot sunken boat that had been submerged for at least a decade was dredged out from under a dock at the 26 Mile Marker.
Tom Devlin, owner of the property where the boat was found, had no idea that there was something lurking under his dock until he called Ameren to get a dock license. They told him the property had an outstanding bill for a vessel they had previously removed... and also there was a boat under his dock.
“This boat had been sitting underwater for three or four owners previously and no one had been asked to remove it until we went to ask for a dock permit,” Devlin said.
Devlin hired Hart Diving and Salvage to pull up the sunken craft. Divers started by attaching airbags to the vessel, two 8,000-lb airbags to the back and two 6,000-lb airbags to the front. A job like this is bound to be complicated, and this one did not disappoint. The boat was settled in the mud, and not directly under the dock slip. It was under the dock structure, so if raised straight to the surface, the 40-foot boat could seriously damage the dock.
As the airbags started to inflate, the divers maneuvered it back into the slip and raised it to the surface, revealing a huge, water-stained craft that had been submerged and stuck in the mud for over a decade.
“It had about two feet of sludge in the bottom, just mud. But if you looked in, you could see the steering wheel and the couch and the kitchen area,” Devlin said.
When the boat came to the surface, Devlin found identification that showed that it was a 1975, 40-ft Boatel Houseboat. The divers began pumping out water with a pump that could remove up to a 1,000 gallons a minute. But it still took five hours to remove enough water to tow the boat to shore.
According to Devlin, the house and boat had been foreclosed on many years ago and had sat vacant for quite awhile. It appears the boat sank during that time since the next owner had attached chains to the dock, apparently in an attempt to raise the vessel himself. After that owner passed away, the property passed to a family member who then sold it to Devlin, who says he only found out about the boat after applying for a dock permit from Ameren.
After enough water was removed from the vessel, Hart Diving and Salvage towed the boat to a ramp half a mile away. But the fiberglass hull had become so brittle over the years that there was concern the vessel would snap in half as it was being pulled to shore.
“The fiberglass was so dilapidated in some areas that they would pull on it and it would just pop off,” Devlin said.
But, despite those concerns, the boat made it to shore. Unsurprisingly, after 15 years underwater, the boat was completely unsalvageable, and in the end the vessel was crushed by an excavator and taken to a landfill. The entire process took 12 people and four boats, and the crew was there from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Although Devlin is thankful the boat has been removed, he's unhappy that he ended up being stuck with the cost.
“When you buy a property down there, you can’t tell what’s under the water in front of you,” he pointed out. “Are you going to have to have your real estate agent go through with sonar ahead of time to make sure there’s nothing in front of your place? Because you’ll be responsible for that.”
Devlin is still in discussions with Ameren about who will pay for the boat's removal.
View more photos of the boat's removal in the slideshow below:
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