An American 7260 Crawler Crane mounted on a barge works to raise Three Girls in Georgia

When Edwin Fendig III realizedthe local Sea Tow company in Geogria did not have the equipment needed to pull a sunken shrimp boat from Brunswick’s East River, the easy part was finding someone who did.

All he had to do was get on the phone with the Sea Tow franchise’s national headquarters in New York City. Folks there put him in touch with a Sea Tow outfit in Pensacola, Fla., which just happened to be in Jacksonville at the time cleaning up some of the havoc Hurricane Matthew wreaked down there.

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The hard part started last Tuesday. That’s when the Pensacola Sea Tow crew went to work with an American 7260 crawler crane anchored to a hulking barge and SCUBA divers in the water off Mary Ross Park, where the Three Girls shrimp boat sunk during the hurricane. With divers in the water, the crew had managed to get two sturdy straps underneath 63.5-foot boat’s sunken hull during the morning.

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By 11 a.m., cable wires attached to the crane strained and groaned against the effort to raise the 50-ton boat from the bottom of the river.

“The goal is to get the Three Girls safely and cleanly away from Mary Ross Park and out of the (East River) harbor,” said Fendig, owner of Sea Tow Brunswick.

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The Golden Isles reports, after sinking during the hurricane on Oct. 7, the Three Girls has since listed to one side. This presented problems for the salvage crew. Ideally, the crew would like to raise the vessel, flush out the water, patch the hull and float it out of the river. The tension of the effort showed early in the day, as the stress of raising the water-logged boat partially above the surface caused the 100-foot barge to lean noticeably in the water. The Jacksonville- based tugboat Little Bully maneuvered the barge.

The 100-ton capacity American crawler crane then eased up on the tension, and let the boat dip back into the water. It was still higher than before, when only the trawler booms and upper rigging stuck above the surface at low tide.

The Three Girls was the only remaining shrimp boat docked at Mary Ross Park, and likely will be the last. The insurance required to dock there is paying for salvage job, Fendig said. The boat is destined for the scrap heap, said Fendig, adding that it would be taken out in pieces if necessary.

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“They want to try to float it and tow it out of here,” he said. “And if they don’t float it, then she’s going out in pieces. They’ll cut it up and haul it off. Either way, she’s done — she’s scrap.”

By dusk Tuesday, the crew had managed to raise the Three Girls more than halfway above the surface, all in one piece.

“I think it’s going to come up tomorrow,” Fendig said around 5:45 p.m. “I think there is a good chance that it will come out tomorrow.”