Portugese maritime history went straight to the bottom of Batemans Bay when yacht Vale De Moura sunk early yesterday morning.
A Batemans Bay firefighter spotted the wreckage with its two masts protruding above the waterline during his morning walk, and phoned it in.
A crew of 13 from NSW Fire and Rescue and HAZMAT arrived at the scene, along Clyde Street at about 8am.
Batemans Bay Fire and Rescue deputy captain Alan Fitches said they quickly set-up booms around the wreckage to contain a small oil leak.
Check out our video footage below of the action:
Low tide was at 7.50am and Mr Fitches was concerned the incoming high tide would push contaminants upstream to the oyster leases.
“We don’t want any contaminants up the river,” he said. “Protecting the environment, that’s our major problem.”
When the long orange boom was attached around the vessel, the fire crew secured an absorbent boom to soak up any fuel or oil that may have floated on the surface.
Their job was then to monitor it.
“Because the tide changes, the water moves in and out, so every six hours we need to check the booms to make sure they haven’t moved too far and the anchor hasn’t moved,” Mr Fitches said.
He said the booms would probably stay in place until the yacht was salvaged.
It is unclear when that will happen.
The Vale De Moura is the last survivor of a fleet of traditional, sail-powered vessels that worked commercially on and around the west coast of Portugal.
It is believed to be owned by a Brogo resident.
It was also once owned by a group of local sailors, including Batemans Bay’s Tony Sutton, about seven years ago.
Mr Sutton isn’t sure what caused the yacht to sink, but said it’s not uncommon for timber boats to leak.
He said when his group owned the yacht, they pumped out water from the bilges quite regularly.
Vale De Moura has been moored in the Bay since Mr Sutton’s group bought it off German engineers in Mooloolaba.
Mr Sutton said the engineers transformed the yacht from feeder vessel into a schooner and sailed it around the world.
Built in 1956, the yacht carried salt to fishing boats in Portugal before it was fitted with a motor and taken to Germany.
When the local group bought the vessel, they hoped to restore it to preserve a piece of maritime history.
Mr Sutton hopes the “horrible” accident won’t put the vessel out of the water.
“I hope that is can be re-floated and get going again,” he said. “It needs some people to get into it.”