Sunken tugboat's owner not optimistic about research equipment

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WZZM) -- A nearly century-old Michigan tugboat that rescued hundreds from Lake Michigan over the years sunk recently in South Haven. But it served more important purposes before mysteriously disappearing into the Black River on February 13.

"I bought it 40 years ago, the name is The Wilhelm Baum," said Jim Bradley.

At 91-years-old, the tug boat was still tugging away.

"For 30 years we used it as a rescue boat with the Coast Guard Auxiliary," he said.

During that span, Bradley says the tug helped rescue nearly 1,500 people from Lake Michigan.

In the last decade, Bradley started using it for shipwreck research.

"Side-scan sonar, remote-operated vehicles," he said. He had it outfitted with all sorts of gadgets, many he built himself.

Little did he know his boat, tied up at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, would eventually become a wreck.

"It was floating fine at 8 a.m. and at 1 p.m. it was sunk," he said.

This came a day after Bradley went to chop the ice and shovel snow from around his boat.

"Absolute shock, stunned," he said.

He has theories, but no answers yet to why his 50 foot, 25 ton vessel ended up at the bottom of the Black River.

Now he must look out to a smoke stack and masts until Spring when the boat is raised. He hopes maybe, some of the electronics he built himself to do his research, will be salvageable.

"I assume it's a total loss, but time will tell," he said.

The Coast Guard is monitoring the ship daily for fuel leaks. Bradley says he has no idea at this point what he will do with his ship.


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