Divers discover safe on sea floor off the end of Tramp Harbor dock

The notched railings at the end of the Tramp Harbor dock likely made it easier to heave the safe into the water. - Sam Emmons photo
The notched railings at the end of the Tramp Harbor dock likely made it easier to heave the safe into the water.
— image credit: Sam Emmons photo

On Saturday, July 26, four divers were delving into the waters just off Tramp Harbor dock, looking for marine life to share with Islanders above as part of the “Who lives under the end of the dock?”’ event.

But among the juvenile giant Pacific octopi, the moon snails and the gunnels was a much more unusual find — a more than two-foot square safe on the sea floor, just “under the end of the dock.”

Someone had carried the safe the length of the dock and dumped it over the edge, said Karlista Rickerson, one of two Islanders who was diving for marine critters on Saturday afternoon and happened upon a safe as well.

“The perimeter of the dock has places where the railing has been cut out, and (the safe) is right smack below one of the cutouts,” she said.

Rickerson said she and other divers couldn’t open it to be sure if its contents had been emptied, but did notice that the safe had a hole about the size of a pinky finger neatly drilled through one side of it, and that it had places where it had once been bolted to the ground.

Rickerson often dives off the Tramp Harbor dock and had been there the previous weekend. The safe wasn’t there then.

She has a postulation about the safe’s origins and rightful owner. Last weekend, St. John Vianney Catholic Church was broken into, and its safe was stolen. Rickerson said she believes this sunken safe belongs to the Catholic parish.

The square black iron safe matches the description of the one the divers found pretty closely, said Constance Walker, St. John Vianney’s pastoral assistant for administration.

The safe had money and checks in its one large compartment, much of which had been collected during the Saturday night mass just prior to the safe’s theft, she said.

“That was one of the places we guessed they might dump it,” she said. “It’s not very public, so you could do it and you might not be seen.”

She couldn’t guess whether the thieves had successfully cracked the safe, but said it would be a boon to the parish if they were able to retrieve some or all of the safe’s contents.

Rickerson reported the safe’s discovery to a King County Sheriff’s deputy who was on the scene when the safe was found, giving tickets to cars illegally parked near the dock.

The deputy reported the safe’s whereabouts to the sheriff’s marine unit, said Sgt. John Urquhart, spokesperson for the department. But the unit will not be able to retrieve it until after Seafair, which is this weekend, Aug. 1 to 3.

At high tide, the safe is covered with 20 feet of water, Rickerson said, so its extraction from the depths will take some maneuvering.

First, a diver will have to go down to the safe and secure it with a hook, then a boat with a crane will have to reel it in.

She said it would be difficult for amateurs to recover the safe themselves — so it’s lucky the professionals have stepped in.

In all her diving days, Rickerson and her children have recovered many stolen and dumped items from the waters off the Tramp Harbor dock: a small motorcycle, a Skilsaw, a rifle, a newspaper stand, an office chair, a bicycle, but never a safe.

And even with an interruption, she said the family-friendly dockside event was a blast.

“Little kids came to do this, and some of them were no more than 2,” Rickerson said. “It was great fun.”

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