Boat takes on water, beached by owner

(UPDATED: 10:45 p.m.) A 42-foot yacht was being refloated late Sunday night after the owner beached the listing vessel near the Veit's Landing condominiums east of Smith's Bayou bridge.
Becky Vargo
Jul 23, 2012


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.


Tri-cities realist

Can't wait for the Smith's bayou homeowners to start complaining about this one. Or will they celebrate someone else's misfortune?


I am gald the situation had a happy ending. It could have been so much worse. But Really - what does this have to do with the Smith Bayou homeowners? I've not seen any of them celebrating! Do you mean the people who clean up boaters dogs' poop out of their yards, listen to the LOUD partying all weekend, see men peeing in their yards, & actually witness sex acts on the boat decks? All the while being content to pay high taxes for waterfront property while not being able to use their own boats because the party boats are rafted so as to completely block access to and from the west side of the bridge. Watching someone elses screaming kids jumping off boats while their parents get drunk is much more fun I'm sure.


If you are going to lie, LIE BIG!

" Do you mean the people who clean up boaters dogs' poop out of their yards"
I have seen many people take their dogs out for a restroom visit and it is ALWAYS under the bridge. Are there trolls that live down there and pay taxes?

"listen to the LOUD partying all weekend"
The policemen keep the noise at a very good level, considering it is THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY. Any young guy who comes in jamming is quickly told to turn it down by either other boaters or the police.

"see men peeing in their yards"
Come on. 95+% of the boaters in the cove are there by noon and leave by 6pm-ish and there is a near constant police presence. You're really telling me this is an issue in the middle of the day? I hope you are not confusing the local teen trash that comes down there, jumps off the bridge and parties all night under the bridge, etc.

" actually witness sex acts on the boat decks"
Again - noon to 6pm, with cops and families present. Your vision of the afternoon delight is just a little far fetched.

"not being able to use their own boats because the party boats are rafted so as to completely block access to and from the west side of the bridge."
Another thing that has NEVER HAPPENED. The police do a very good job of ensuring that there is ALWAYS access through Smith's bayou.

"Watching someone elses screaming kids jumping off boats while their parents get drunk is much more fun I'm sure. "
More baseless accusations. Are you sure they are getting drunk? Ebeneezer, Is your life so pathetically dull that when you see people smiling, laughing, swimming and honestly enjoying themselves - you automatically see drunk parents and screaming kids?

Learn to share the outdoors and love your neighbor.


Those types will complain and celebrate someone else's plight. Lots of plastic people in Grand Haven/Spring Lake area. Lots of back stabbers and double minded talkers. And they are good at it. They will tell you to your face they are you best friend - then throw you in front of the train when you least expect it.


no kidding. What is truely unspeakable is all the residents gawking from shore in their lawn chairs. Yuppies! At least they have one council member on their side...for the time being.


We witnessed the whole thing, and I can only say, hats off to the skipper for keeping a cool head and doing the right thing. Also, credit to the other boaters around him, who took notice, assisted and organized the whole incident with minimal damage to the boat and absolutely zero injuries. It is situations like this that REALLY display the TRUE image of the true boaters in the tri-city area and especially those that visit Smith's Bayou.

Can we officially list this as a "Speakable Act?"


Probably something "unspeakable" going on there, Smith's Bayou residents!


Watched the owner and friends most of the afternoon doing unspeakable things as we were anchored near by. I called the issue into the CG before the captain beached the boat. Great job by him and quick response by the Sherrifs department. Seemed to me that the coast guard should have responded as well?? Boat was gone this morning so great job by tow boat US as well. Glad all those heathens were OK!!!



Actually, the Coast Guard does not handle any types of vessel recovery, unless it is posing a threat to other boats, navigational through ways, etc. Due to Mr. Lubbers and his fellow boaters quick thinking, they were able to beach the boat, thus negating the need for the Coast Guard - thus keeping them free for real emergencies involving life and limb.

Good job to the LEO's who were already in the cove (albeit on the other side of the bridge) who arrived soon after he beached it and the Tow Boat captain, who was there assessing the situation, soon after.


Thank you for the clarification. As i mentioned, nice job to all those invloved and thankfully no one was hurt. See you at Smiths this coming weekend,


Those "plastic people" watching were concerned residents and neighbors who stayed until the boat began its journey for repair at 2:15amam. Those same residents assisted the recovery team and Coast Guard on scene, showing true care for all involved. The minor gasoline spill created an issue for the divers but they were ASSISTED by those "plastic people". Not everyone who lives there or nearby should be judged of the same caliber as the folks who always have an axe to grind. Keep it positive, friends!


You better write your council women (rebecca hopp... for painting your community in a negative light and giving the general public a negative opinion of you and your neighbors. And that her unprecedented accusations affect the entire community.

R Lubbers

Yep, it's me. I want to thank the GHYC raft for the multiple generous offers of help from their entourage of dinghies, and especially for the man on the GHYC raft who told me he thought the boat was taking on water. Wreckless is a narrow boat and always tips when there's a bunch of people on board, so I kinda poo poo'ed his observation, but within a minute or two my uneasiness overcame me and I decided to go check. I opened up the hatch to the engine room and that was the scariest water I've ever seen…I knew I was in big trouble because the batteries were under water, which I thought meant my bilge pumps would fail [not true]…and the water level seemed to be getting worse by the minute. In hindsight I should have instantly known the bilge pumps would not solve this, but I still didn't know that's how bad it was or where the water was coming from [I know pretty much everything now]. But the engines seemed to be scary deep.

Most obvious thing after seeing all that water was to start the engines [yay they started!], thinking maybe I had one dead battery, and maybe running the engines will miraculously get the pumps running better/faster if a dying battery was now charging. Then I had everyone on board [including my daughters Anna and Maggie] step onto boats tied up on either side of us, and after further attempts to figure out the problem, such as flipping all the circuit breakers off and on to see if a bilge pump might have stopped, I decided to beach the boat before the engines quit…but I was probably still thinking I could eventually fix whatever it was once I got to the beach. The details are a bit fuzzy when things happen so fast. But that guy who said he thought my boat was taking on water nudged me in the right direction, which kept it from sinking to the bottom. Thank you Mr. Smar Tpants, you bought me several critical minutes.

I want to thank TowboatUS for their quick action and hard work long into the night, the sheriff for handling everything so well, and Randy/John and the guys from Barrett Boat Works for sticking around for hours and getting the boat quickly and safely hauled out at 3am.

As with all disasters, it took 3 things to go wrong all at the same time...I wrote everything down as best I could. The Tribune got a few things wrong in the online edition, and some info in the newspaper edition was downright appalling. The difference between "beached" and "run aground" makes a huge difference to the guy doing the beaching :) Email me at if you're interested in reading it.


Great job, skipper. You handled everything very well. We were all impressed.
We were in the cove with you and watched the whole thing go down.

"The Tribune got a few things wrong in the online edition, and some info in the newspaper edition was downright appalling."

Yeah, it appears that this has been an ongoing problem. Ask Rebecca Hopp. They printed something she apparently said and she has denied ever saying it. Hopefully, the Trib reins in these rogue reporters, IF that is the case. One of the reporters showed up at the scene (opposite of where you were) and tried asking us questions, but we didn't answer, for fear of being misquoted, misconstrued or taken out of context. It's sad when it comes to that, but it is what it is. Maybe they are pining for a position on MSNBC!

R Lubbers

I want to thank the reporter Becky Vargo for fixing some errors in the report and for making the incident sound less like a crazy disaster and more like the safe and calculated beaching that it was. She did not have much to go on and is very interested in accuracy, so apologies and kudos to her.


Good job skipper. Looks like every man, woman and their dog were interested in your predicament. Must be a special pooch to have a seat all its own!! (see gallery of original article)


You did a great job captain! I was there. My kids jumped off your boat all day and hung out with your family and friends. You were calm and professional and all of your boater friends tied to you that day feel terrible for your boat but happy everyone was safe. Again, great job in how you handled everything!

beam ends

I am quite surprised at the complementary comments towards the skipper. If I must refer to him as a skipper I do so only to preserve continuity and not in the context he is prudent mariner. The action taken of beaching his vessel may have been correct. Keep in perspective, though, that action was the consequence of his failures as a mariner.

Certainly we’d all have been better served by wrecking the boat on the beach and enjoying a nice bonfire.


I agree. It is the responsibility of every mariner upon departure, ensure that their craft, captain and crew is capable of safe return. If the integrity of this craft was diminished over time to the point that the hull could so easily be breached, this skipper has obviously not performed the required duty of craft inspection and proper evaluation. Anybody could beach a boat, big deal. We should not be congratulating a guy for risking the lives of himself, his family and others on the raft by not properly understanding the true conditon of his craft. A wood boat of this vintage should obviously demand extra attention. Oh, I know...the coast guard inspected it...but they look for life jackets, flare guns and fire extinguishers, its not their responsibility to tell you if your hull is seaworthy, that's up to you. Your not a true mariner and certainly should not be congratulated if you buy the biggest boat on craiglist for the smallest amount of money and take to our local waterways.


Wow! Pretty harsh comments for a good guy who probably has lost his boat.

A boat can sink for many reasons and can be as small as a bellows that cracks and leaks. Sometimes stuff happens and the skipper doesn't always know. A 'failure as a mariner'? Really?

beam ends

Yes really. A rotten hull is not an excusable circumstance for sinking a vessel. Entirely predictable and preventable. Cracks in the bellows? Don't store with the outdrive in the extreme up position. Inspect for dry rot prior to launch, if a leak develops automatic bilge pump should keep up. If not a redundant system of an audible high bilge water alarm will prevent a loss. A vessel that has known leaks should have a cycle counter on the automatic bilge pump. This is so an increased rate of taking on water can monitored and investigated. Not empathetic in the least for the loss of the vessel. In fact I was quite concerned the owner attempt a repair with bondo so he could get it back in the water for Coast Guard Festival. Stay on land.


Dear Beam ends,

I don't necessarily agree with everything you said but it sounds like you know your stuff. In fact, I didn't even know what a cycle counter was until I read your note.

And the bondo comment made me laugh.

Have a good weekend and enjoy the Festival.


Hey "beams end" - you seem to be quite the expert - care to share your "in real life" identity in order that perhaps we all could further benefit from your wealth of knowledge?

Something tells me you don't have quite the revered respect you attempt to portray here offline though ...

"Thanks" for taking the time to relay your lack of empathy ... send my condolences to all those burdened by the crass judgement you undoubtedly inflict upon those with the misfortune of having contact with you.


wow, on this forum two days, and is calling out people on behalf of her babies-Daddy. Congrats, I haven't been here long either, but it must be a record! And, you do fit right in here. Glad to have you aboard (so to speak).

Not everyone is so inclined to publish their opinions here under their real name, for a reason. They want to remain anonymous, so they don't get attacked personally for the way they feel.

BTW, on the original story, glad everyone got out safe from the boating 'mishap'.


Good luck with the attempting to remain anonymous - I can personally guarantee you that your hidden identity can quickly and simply be discovered - as well as many other personal things about your life, location, etc. You might want to keep that in mind next time before you try to take on a mamabear - even online - not the smartest move. ;)


"if not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost"



R Lubbers

I know I should ignore the comment trolls, but I'll make an attempt anyway. A step was torn off by a 260lb passenger who told me only that it was "loose" [failure #1]. Talk about rot is a bit misguided but also not entirely off base...but a person of that magnitude stepping on a 3 inch step puts at least 500lb to 700lb of force on the attachment point. That is a lot of force regardless of the hull to which it is attached. Being unable to swim that day because of a scrape on my leg [didn't want yet another Spring Lake infection], I trusted the passenger's description that it was "loose" and did not go swimming myself to have a look. I thought it was loose screws, which can be handled later without the risk of getting sick for months all over again...had I gone swimming, [failure #2] I'd surely have noticed and things would have turned out quite differently. And finally, the boat is very tall and narrow and therefore quite tippy when a dozen passengers are aboard, which makes it very difficult to tell if it is tipping or other words, I misread the signs of taking on water as the very normal tipping due human weight [failure #3]. I've seen a lot in 13 years, but this is one for the books.

To the Monday morning quarterbacks sitting in their armchairs who could have done better despite their ignorance, hats off to you. The people who knew about the maintenance schedule of the boat year after year are not busy pointing any fingers or acting as judge and jury. Hats off to them too.


I guess if nothing else the comments here serve to sadly further prove the character of many of the tri-city area residents. Beautiful place to visit = not so friendly place to live.

To all of the arrogant, pompous, belittling posters - my two little girls were on that boat and the "mariner" (seemingly on trial) is their Daddy.

How do you think it would make them feel to potentially overhear the pathetic, heartless jokes you're making?

Are you able to explain and justify to THEM the cruel, demeaning statements you may have made here?

Quite obviously, a few of the comments here disgust me - a boat that had children on it sinking is not a humorous event.

I am, self admittedly, at times, a wee bit of an over-protective parent ... that said ... I can assure you that there is no way that I would so willingly allow our two little girls to sleep over and go out on this boat with their Dad if I did not 110% trust his experience, judgement and equal protectiveness as priority #1 of our daughters.

They were both on the boat during this incident and they are now, both - safe, unharmed and only mildly affected by this potentially traumatic ordeal precisely because of the positive actions of their Father.

So please - instead of picking on someone else's tragedy ... find a hobby, volunteer, read a book, go for a walk - there's many other things I'm sure you could be doing rather than selfishly entertaining yourselves at the expense of two precious little girls.

Sometimes terrible things just happen without a source behind them to blame ... this is one of those times.

be nice - stop - retract your ignorant postings - do it now

Thanks ...


Well said, had this been on any other bayou things may not have gone as well as they did. The skipper made all the right desicions, he calmly evacuated his vessel and headed towards shore preventing a possible tragedy. To all you nay sayers, SHUT UP and stop praying on someone elses misfortune! Dryrot cant always be found even with an inspection. Good job skipper and I wish you the best on getting the ol gal back in the water soon.



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