St. Croix River Good Samaritans: Tow-truck team pledges to remove stranded sailboat for free

Salvage company owner from western Minnesota say he and a crew will get the boat out as soon as the ice is safe.




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Stranded sailboat in the St. Croix River (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

A Minnesota tow-truck company with experience salvaging vehicles from frozen waters has pledged to remove from the river the sailboat that has been stranded near Boom Site Landing since freeze-up.

Boat owner Mike Olson of Chisago City said he was going to try to get it out last Friday, but decided it wasn’t safe nor worth the trouble, according to the Pioneer Press and West-Central Tribune.

So Jason Butler of City Line Towing in Willmar, Minn. said he will do it for free, saying he sees a person in need, an interesting challenge, and a chance to do well during the holiday season.

City Line Towing and team pull a truck from Lake Shetek in southwestern Minnesota last winter. Click here to view the full gallery showing the process. (Photo courtesy City Line Towing)

Butler and a friend, Josh Schafer of Pulver Towing in Marshall, will pull together a team to get it done within a few weeks. He assessed the situation this week on Wednesday, and said the ice just needs to be thicker before they can get to work.

“We hope to have it out, weather permitting, by the middle of December,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon with the West Central Tribune.

The job won’t be easy, he said. The boat has a 4-foot keel on the bottom, so it will have to be lifted about 5 feet above the ice before it can be moved.

This effort, “a little out of the ordinary,” is a huge undertaking and will be a group effort with Pulver Towing and others, Butler said.

His plan for now — “We’re going to probably hand-build a lifting system to extract it from the water and then winch the skid to the shoreline.”

There are other options possible if the first doesn’t work out, he said.

“I can guarantee we’re going to figure it out one way or another,” he said.

Willmar tow truck operator offers to come to the rescue of man whose sailboat is frozen into the St. Croix, West Central Tribune, Nov. 20, 2019

Butler has experience pulling vehicles out of lakes after they broke through ice, as well as other tricky salvage operations on land and water. He says this will be his first time working on river ice, so he considers it good training for him and his crew.

Boat-owner Olson said he is grateful for their pro bono efforts.

“I really, really appreciate what they are doing,” Olson told the Pioneer Press. “I was running out of options. He even told me that the boat shouldn’t be damaged when he’s done with it.”

Removal should take a full day for the team, Butler predicted.

“Hey, this guy’s struggling. Of course we’ll do whatever it takes,” he said. “It’s that time of the year.”

If only Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men had been so fortunate.


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St. Croix River Good Samaritans: Tow-truck team pledges to remove stranded sailboat for free