Richard Lubbers of Spring Lake said he was rafted with some other boats in the bayou east of Smith's Bridge late Sunday afternoon when someone told him his large wooden boat, named "Wreckless," was listing.
"There was a lot of people on board so it was difficult to tell at first," Lubbers said.
But when he checked, he noticed water coming in and the bilge pumps shooting water out.
"I asked everyone to get off and began untying" from the other boats, Lubbers said.
When he realized the water was coming in faster than the pumps could send it back out, he said he threw off the lines and took his boat straight to shore.
The beach was steep, so the nose of the boat went up and the back of the boat went down enough so that water flowed in through some open windows, further sinking the boat, he said.
"He did the right thing," said Brian DeVries of Great Lakes Towing and Tow Boat U.S. DeVries said it would be easier for them to refloat the boat from shore.
Tow Boat U.S. owner (for east coast of Lake Michigan) Rich Lenardson donned scuba gear and located a 3-inch by 8-inch hole where a step had ripped out. As of late Sunday night, he said they would lift the boat with air bags, plug the hole in the rotted wood, drain the water and tow the boat to a marina where it would be immediately lifted out of the water.
Lubbers said the 1971 Chris Craft Constellation had just been inspected by the Coast Guard on Saturday. He said he has owned the boat since 1999 and has done normal maintenance and repairs. He said the boat was insured for $43,000.
The Ottawa County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol responded from the water. Spring Lake/Ferrysburg police responded on shore.
Coast Guard personnel were also on scene to monitor and possibly remove any spills in the water.
They were monitoring the fuel spill, which created a strong gasoline odor in the area, for several hours, said Jason Hall, a marine science technician first class with Sector Field Office Grand Haven.
"We can't do anything with gasoline. We just have to let it evaporate," Hall said. "If you contain it, you create an explosive environment with the vapors."
Hall said they would remain on the scene until the boat was removed in case there was any oil spilled. They would then use absorbent pads to remove the oil from the water.