Off the side of the harbor master’s boat, diver Alex Lund investigates a diesel leak in Mackerel Cove, Bailey Island, on Monday, July 10. A long-sunken fishing trawler was the source of the leak, according to Harpswell Harbor Master Paul Plummer. (Paul Plummer photo)

A trawler that sank to the bottom of Mackerel Cove, Bailey Island, in the 1990s leaked diesel fuel into the cove on Monday, July 10.

A local diver plugged the leak late Monday afternoon and the U.S. Coast Guard plans to pump out the rest of the fuel, according to Harpswell Harbor Master Paul Plummer. The amount of fuel that leaked is not known. “We don’t have a clue,” Plummer said.

Plummer said he was in his office on Monday morning when he received a call from a commercial fisherman who told him “the whole cove stinks” from the fuel. Soon afterward, another caller reported a sheen “across the entire cove.”

Plummer responded by boat and said he could smell the fuel as soon as he rounded Abner Point and entered the cove. A trail was visible from the source of the leak to the outskirts of the cove. “God only knows how long it had been leaking,” he said.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Orr’s and Bailey Islands Fire Department, and U.S. Coast Guard Station South Portland responded to assist. But it was local diver Alex Lund who stopped the leak around 5 p.m., using marine putty and other materials.

“That seemed to do the trick for now,” Plummer said.

The Coast Guard notified the town that it would pump out the rest of the fuel, Plummer said. On July 20, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane told the Harpswell Select Board that the Coast Guard had returned with a diver and removed the rest of the fuel.

The fishing vessel Miss Plum was the source of the leak, according to Plummer. The boat is resting in about 50 feet of water. Plummer described the location as about halfway into the cove toward Abner Point.

Gene Frey, of Brunswick, was the owner of the Miss Plum. Reached by phone, he described it as a 65-foot trawler “just like” Forrest Gump’s shrimp boat, Jenny, in the 1994 film. He said he used it for eight years to fish for cod, flounder, haddock and monkfish.

The boat was more than 40 years old when it sank one day in the mid- to late 1990s, according to Frey.

Frey said he tried to save the boat with assistance from the Coast Guard. The “water was up over the engine” when he reached the boat. He attempted to pump it out, borrowing two additional pumps from the Coast Guard, but eventually Coast Guard personnel told him to collect the pumps and get off the sinking boat.

That was the last Frey saw of the vessel. There was no attempt to raise it, he said.

Frey said he continued to work in the groundfishing industry and recently captained boats out of Portland, until he retired in February.

Plummer said the Miss Plum is one of three boats currently at the bottom of Mackerel Cove.

One, an approximately 25-foot boat, sank this spring. The boat’s owner said it did not have a motor or any fuel on board. Plummer said the owner has been given a deadline to remove the boat. The other craft is a sailboat. Its owner has not been identified.