Sonar image shows a sunken vessel on the James River on May 27. Photo: Chesterfield County Virginia Marine Team

Sunken Vessel Warning in James River

How many sunken vessels are sitting on the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries? Probably too many to locate and count—boaters unknowingly drive above them in deep water without ever knowing it. When it become a navigational hazard, though, a sunken vessel gets more attention.

The recent sinking of a 35-foot powerboat in the James River has prompted a Coast Guard warning to boaters. USCG says the cabin cruiser Sanmar is sitting in the channel on the James in Henrico, Va., between Light 158 and Light 160. Vessels with a draft of 20 feet or more are banned from traveling that stretch without permission from the Captain of the Port, and all other boats should use caution when passing through the area.

The Chesterfield and Henrico county fire departments alerted the Coast Guard of the boat’s sinking after reports of sheening on the water. USCG and partners conducted an underwater survey to determine it is a hazard to navigation in the channel. The agency alerted mariners and recreational boaters on Thursday of the hazard.

The Chesterfield County marine team captured sonar images of the boat sitting on the river bottom.

Coast Guard, US Army Corps of Engineers, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and other partner agencies were working on a salvage plan together.

The Coast Guard accessed the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for pollution response, but luckily, no additional sheening has been seen along the shoreline.

The Coast Guard was trying to identify the circumstances surrounding Sanmar‘s sinking, as there are no search and rescue incidents, missing persons, or any signs of distress in the area they can connect to the vessel.

If anyone has any information about the owner of the vessel or has seen the vessel before, please contact the Coast Guard Sector Virginia Command Center at 757-483-8567.

-Meg Walburn Viviano