The motor vessel TOO ELUSIVE's recent sinking is still being monitored by the Maine DEP, USCG, and New Hampshire DES

June 24, 2022

On Saturday afternoon, June 18th, the 72-foot M/V TOO ELUSIVE caught fire in the vicinity of Wentworth By the Sea Marina in Little Harbor - Portsmouth, New Hampshire. All three persons onboard safely abandoned ship and were quickly rescued. However, despite the tremendous marine firefighting efforts of numerous local agencies, the vessel burned to the waterline and sank early Saturday evening in approximately 80 feet of water 1 mile southeast of the 2KR buoy at the entrance of the Piscataqua River. The wreck site was marked and is located outside of the main shipping channel.

On Sunday, June 19th the vessel owner was issued a Notice of Federal Interest by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and the vessel owner has since contracted a local commercial salvage company to survey the wreck site and develop a salvage plan to raise the remains of the vessel and ensure any further environmental and/or navigation impacts are properly mitigated.

Monday, June 20th the salvage company contracted a Marine Engineering and Industrial Services company to conduct a hydrographic and structural survey of the vessel to determine how it was situated in the water. This was an important step to determine the risks of the salvage and what could be done with the vessel moving forward. The marine salvage contractor also continued its attempts to schedule professional divers that were qualified to do the technical work necessary for the salvage.

On Tuesday, June 21st the hydrographic and survey team arrived on scene to conduct the underwater survey work and found the remains of the vessel to be standing on its stern/transom with the bow sticking straight up. This was deemed a dangerous salvage operation due to the positioning of the wreck and associated stability concerns coupled with the depths and currents in which the divers must operate. Diesel fuel was also found to be slowing leaking and creating a light/variable sheen that was determined to be non-recoverable and was evaporating and dissipating naturally at sea.

On Wednesday and Thursday, June 22nd 23rd the salvage company continued to develop/refine its plan to raise the vessel and contracted professional divers from out of state to assist in the salvage effort. Local Coast Guard vessels continued to monitor the last known position of the vessel and due to the prevailing sea conditions, no sheen was immediately apparent.

On Friday, June 24th the professional dive team arrived on scene and used a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) take high resolution digital images the wreck to determine connection points and assess the location of the fuel tanks. In the calm morning sea state, the Coast Guard and Kittery Harbormaster observed a light diesel fuel sheen in the vicinity of the wreck site that was again determined to be non-recoverable and was evaporating/ dissipating naturally at sea. No shoreline impacts have been reported at this time. A complete salvage plan submitted by the contractor is expected late Friday afternoon and will detail a proposal of how the vessel will be safely raised to mitigate continued environmental concerns.

Crews from the USCG, NH DES, and ME DEP continue to closely monitor the situation and have consulted with the local NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator who provided the following diesel fuel facts to keep in mind during a situation like this.

  • When spilled in open water and unconfined, most diesel will evaporate or naturally disperse with a few days. Under these conditions, there is seldom a surface oil for responders to recover. This is particularly true for typical spills from a vessel with 500-5,000 gallons, even in cold water.

  • Diesel is not very sticky or viscous, compared to black oils. When small spills do strand on the shoreline, the oil tends to penetrate porous sediments quickly, but is also washed off quickly by waves and tidal flushing. Thus, shoreline cleanup may not be needed for small spills.

  • Diesel fuel is a contaminant of concern due to its recognized aquatic toxicity in marine environments, however given the size of this spill and the fact that it was in open water, fish kills are very unlikely.

  • Given the fact that diesel fuel dissipates quite quickly on the surface, negative impacts to birds are very unlikely as well.

DEP hazardous material responders conducted an on-site inspection in the vicinity of Fort Foster this afternoon. During the site investigation, no noticeable sheen or shoreline impacts were found.

This incident is under investigation by The State of New Hampshire, the United States Coast Guard, and the National Transportation Safety Board.

For additional information, contact: David R. Madore, Deputy Commissioner, ME DEP or

Ryan A. Koroknay, LCDR, USCG SEC N NEW ENG (USA) or

James P. Martin, Public Information Officer, NH DES