By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 24, 2021 at 4:45 PM Photography: MKE Marine Reports

Last weekend, the Harbor Seagull, a utility vessel owned by the Port of Milwaukee, sank at its dock on Kinnickinnic River for reasons that port officials are now trying to discern.

The workboat was raised from about 20 feet of water on Tuesday by Michels Construction using a crane on a deck barge. Because it remained tied to mooring, it did not drift away from the Jones Island wall, according to WISN-TV.

The Harbor Seagull sank not far from the Advance Boiler & Tank building I wrote about last week in this article.

Michels Construction's new headquarters are currently under construction in the Harbor District as part of the R1Ver development.

According to MKE Marine Reports, divers attached chains to the hull of the boat and lifted it far enough above the water line to allow a series of pumps to do the rest.

A crew from Pirate's Cove Diving – run by Jerry Guyer, who gave me a tour of these former malt silos last year – went into the water to attach the chains.

“It was reported that 120 gallons of diesel fuel were onboard,” wrote MKE Marine Reports in an email Wednesday. “There was some leakage but that was easily contained and removed from the surface by a skimmer (oil floats).”

After the water was removed from the Harbor Seagull, she was transported on the Michels barge to the City Heavy Lift Dock.

The effort took a few hours.

Next, the cause of the sinking will be investigated.

News reports say that a replacement vessel could run as high as nearly $1 million, and MKE Marine Reports notes that the raising cost roughly $40,000 and repairs could run to $200,000-$300,000.

The Harbor Seagull, says MKE Marine Reports, was designed by the Milwaukee harbormaster’s office and is unique on the Great Lakes.

“According to Milwaukee’s harbormaster, Capt. R.H. Knight, she was a utility vessel that would perform several tasks around the harbor. These included debris removal, lifting and setting navigation buoys, dock building and repair, towing equipment such as scows and workboats, firefighting and ice breaking.”

T.D. Vinette Co. of Escanaba, Michigan, built the 44-foot long, 16-foot wide ship in 1961 at a cost of $46,900.

“She is equipped with a two-ton hoist built by Gafner’s Automotive & Machine Co. of Escanaba, and a small water cannon capable of throwing 500 gallons of water 200 feet,” according to MKE Marine Reports. “In recent years, Harbor Seagull has been used almost exclusively for debris removal and icebreaking. She was out regularly this February working to keep a channel open from the harbor entrance.

“On Feb. 18, she extended that channel up the Kinnickinnic River to just past the South 1st Street Bridge so that Thatcher Foundations could bring in a barge to remove debris from the River One construction site.

“Thatcher, a subcontractor on the River One project, hired HARBOR SEAGULL to break ice because she fits under the Canadian Pacific railroad bridge, unlike the larger G-tugs stationed in Milwaukee.”

Harbor Seagull was built specifically to break through ice and a former captain told MKE Marine Repors, “The Seagull could punch through ice as thick as 18 inches.” He compared this to “driving head-on into a brick wall at 10 miles per hour.”

MKE Marine Reports has posted a slideshow here.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.