West Seattle, Washington
8:17 PM: Thanks to Carolyn Newman for the photo of the Norwegian Sun, maneuvering before sailing away tonight for a two-and-a-half week cruise to Florida (after a stop in Victoria), first cruise ship to visit Seattle this year. We previewed the upcoming season on Wednesday. Next scheduled ship: Ruby Princess, April 28th (one week from Saturday).
9:19 PM: As a commenter and texter point out, and as MarineTraffic.com confirms, the ship is back in the middle of Elliott Bay. Don’t know why, but we’re trying to find out.
9:31 PM: And now it’s headed back out of the bay, up to 11 knots per MT.
From our “what you saw/will see at sea” file – tomorrow you’ll see the first cruise ship of the season in Elliott Bay, on its way to (and from) Pier 66 on the downtown waterfront. The Norwegian Sun, currently docked in Victoria, B.C., is scheduled to be here on Thursday for a 5 pm departure on a cruise that will take it through the Panama Canal and on to Florida. According to the Port of Seattle, this will be one of 215 cruise-ship visits this season (here’s the schedule), bringing in 1.1 million passengers, half a billion dollars in revenue, $19 million in state/local taxes. Norwegian Cruise Line will make an even bigger splash on May 30th, when its Norwegian Bliss becomes the largest cruise ship homeported on the West Coast – 1,082 feet long, 4,000 passengers, 1,716 crew members.
P.S. We asked port spokesperson Peter McGraw when the Sun will sail in tomorrow. Reply: Around 3 am.
Recent sightings off our shores:
Gary Jones photographed FVF Chenega, fast-ferry catamaran from the Alaska Marine Highway System, this afternoon as it was under tow northbound in Puget Sound. Online research reveals it’s been docked at Vigor‘s Tacoma facility for a year and a half. Earlier this year, Alaska sought bids for towing it to Ketchikan by the end of this month.
Speaking of Vigor, the company is involved with another passenger ferry sighting from a week and a half ago:
Carolyn Newman sent that photo on March 30th, but we didn’t get to share it at the time. She spotted it off Vigor, which has been building new foot ferries for the San Francisco Bay fleet and is scheduled to deliver two this year – building the hulls at its Ballard yard, the rest on Harbor Island.
11:53 AM: Thanks to Paula Grassell for the photo from Alki – that’s the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), headed out this morning. It’s one of two aircraft carriers based at Bremerton, but you won’t see the other one off our shores for a while – the USS Nimitz is getting maintenance work for the next year. The Stennis has been out for various training periods in recent months, getting ready for an upcoming deployment, but there’s no official word yet on this voyage.
12:48 PM: And thanks to Tom Stoner for this photo:
Seen in Elliott Bay this afternoon: Above and below, USCGC Polar Star, the heavy icebreaker just back from a three-month-plus mission to Antarctica, as previewed here last night.
And below, Zhen Hua 33 has finished delivering the drydock Evolution to Vigor on Harbor Island – its appearance without cargo startled at least a few people into thinking it was a sinking ship:
No photo, but someone texted about a passing submarine today, too.
The Seattle-homeported U.S. Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star is one of a kind, and it’s coming home tomorrow after more than three months at sea. You’ll see it off north West Seattle before its scheduled arrival on the downtown waterfront at 4 pm. It’s been off supporting Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica, which the announcement describes as “the U.S. military operation to resupply the U.S. Antarctic Program.” It had a tough time, with flooding and engine-failure problems during the mission, which involved “cutting a resupply channel through 15 miles of Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea and escorting supply vessels to the continent.” It’s 399 feet long and 41 years old, and, the Coast Guard says, “expected to reach the end of its extended service life by 2023.” The Coast Guard recently announced it’s issuing a request for proposals to build new icebreakers.
Lots of questions this morning about that big yacht in view off western West Seattle right now. It’s the same one that spent hours off Alki back on Tuesday, as we noted here that day. It’s identified only as Delta 45 on MarineTraffic.com, referring to the yacht-building firm Delta Marine, based on the Duwamish River just south of South Park – that’s where it returned to after its time off Alki earlier this week. They didn’t respond to our inquiry about it, and we still haven’t found anything else about it online, aside from this mostly paywalled reference.
12:50 PM: If you were hoping to go do some gawking – it’s headed back into the Duwamish as of a few minutes ago.
James Bratsanos‘s panorama shows the perfect end to this beautiful day. Looks like a car carrier in his photo. It was a busy day on the water – Chris Frankovich caught US Coast Cuard Cutter Midgett out in the area again:
We reported earlier this week (with more Coast Guard info added the next day) on the Midgett and two other USCG vessels seen off West Seattle, including training close to shore off Alki Beach.
Also today, Jim Borrow spotted the Zhen Hua 28 – covered here as it took those four huge cranes to Tacoma two weeks ago – headed back outbound:
MarineTraffic.com shows it just now exiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca, headed back across the Pacific to Shanghai. At midday today, we were in the Lowman Beach Park area when two more-ordinary container ships passed, southbound and northbound:
The next two days should be even better for water-watching – more sunshine, with highs expected in the 60s tomorrow, maybe even the 70s Monday.
1:14 PM: More sightings at sea – this time, whales! Thanks to Kersti Muul for letting us know that orcas are on the west side of the Sound, passing Blake Island, headed southbound. So if you go look – bring good binoculars.
1:40 PM: In a comment below, Jen says it appears they’re turning west, toward Southworth.
1:10 PM: Thanks to the texter who tipped us about a U.S. Coast Guard vessel close-in off Alki Beach a little while ago. We went over for a photo and discovered it’s with the USCG Aids to Navigation Team (here’s what they do). We have a message out to the USCG in hopes of finding out what it was up to, so close to shore. Also in the area, according to MarineTraffic.com, two other USCG vessels – buoy tender USCGC Henry Blake (which we last mentioned after receiving a photo in 2014) and USCGC Midgett.
ADDED 7:30 PM: Thanks to Anne Noonan for the photo of the Midgett (and the Olympics). Meantime, USCG public affairs is checking on what the ANT crew was doing so close to shore – check back here tomorrow.
ADDED THURSDAY: From the Coast Guard:
Their crew aboard the 55-foot Aids to Navigation Boat (ANB) was training while they were out. The set out a temporary buoy and simulated servicing it, then ran a few engineering drills.
All of the buoys we’re responsible for are on a regular servicing schedule, where Aids to Navigation (ATON) units will pull the buoy out of the water, check the wear on the buoy itself, the chain and the sinker, either a rock or a dor-mor (sinkers are a large cement block the other end of the chain is attached to. A dor-mor is a pyramid shaped piece of cast iron, these are typically used by the ANT teams, while sinkers are used by the cutters) and replace parts as needed.
Regarding a few points in comments:
There are only four small boats in the entire Coast Guard that have names and all are stationed in our district. Those are the 52-foot Motor Life Boats, Triumph II in Ilwaco, Washington, Invincible II in Westport, Intrepid in Charleston, Oregon, and the Victory in Newport. All our other small boats are referred to by length and type (e.g. 29-foot Response Boat-Medium II). So within the service we just refer to the 55’s and either the 55’s or an ANB.
As for the Midgett, it was not on fire … That was just it working. As for what they were doing, the crew recently wrapped up work on one of the main diesel engines and was conducting a sea trial of it.
They were scheduled to be back out today – though we didn’t make it down to the water, so we didn’t see firsthand.
Thanks to Stephen Bergenholtz for the photo. After a couple of people asked us about that yacht while it was hanging around off Alki for a couple hours at midday, we finally got a chance to go look – just in time to see it vanish into the mouth of the Duwamish River, headed back to the yacht-building yard Delta Marine, south of South Park. On MarineTraffic.com, the yacht was identified only as “Delta 45”; we inquired with Delta but haven’t heard back. (MarineTraffic gave its length as 63 meters and that would seem to match this listing.)
12:22 PM: For everyone interested in sights at sea – those four huge cranes headed for the Port of Tacoma are now coming into view from West Seattle. (We’re glimpsing them from west Charlestown hill, looking north.) They’re being carried by the heavy-lift ship Zhen Hua 28 – here’s its position via MarineTraffic.com; here’s the preview we published earlier this week. Updates to come.
12:29 PM: Visible from Alki, too.
12:45 PM: It’s currently pointed more southeast, as if it was headed for Elliott Bay rather than directly south.
12:55 PM: Clearly headed into Elliott Bay. So don’t be looking for it from west-facing WS.
1:04 PM: Just called Tara with NW Seaport Alliance. She says the ship turned into Elliott Bay to change pilots.
1:15 PM: Headed west out of the bay now. And if you are waiting along Beach Drive, NB orcas are reported to be in view.
1:35 PM: Southbound, with a good view from west Alki. Should be in view off Beach Drive in a few more minutes.
1:46 PM: Just passing Alki Point Lighthouse.
From Constellation Park. Listen to the wind. pic.twitter.com/n1lP7XEllG
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) February 23, 2018
2:05 PM: Now between here and Blake Island. Our in-person tracking ends here. Pic to share? firstname.lastname@example.org – thank you!
2:35 PM: One last glimpse for us, through the trees, as Zhen Hua 28 passes east Vashon.
This should be a sight at sea sometime Friday – a big ship carrying four of the biggest container cranes on the West Coast, headed to Tacoma. From the Northwest Seaport Alliance announcement:
The ship will sit at anchor in Commencement Bay for a day or two before delivering the cranes to Husky Terminal at the northwest end of the Blair Waterway.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance ordered eight new super-post-Panamax cranes from Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd (ZPMC) in China through a competitive bid process. No container cranes currently are manufactured in the U.S. ZPMC is the largest heavy-duty equipment manufacturer in the world and delivers more than 200 cranes every year around the world, including many seaports in the U.S. The other four cranes will arrive in 2019.
Find out more about the cranes in this NWSA video:
They’ll be 50 feet higher than the biggest ones in the area now, with “an outreach of 24 containers and a lift height of 165 feet above the pier deck.” The Tacoma terminal where they’ll be used is part of an ongoing overhaul project.
2:53 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul, who pointed out via text that an Orca Network commenter reported orcas off Fay Bainbridge Park on north Bainbridge Island [map] about an hour ago – if they continued southbound, they could end up off West Seattle. Kersti is watching from Constellation Park south of Alki Point and “not seeing anything yet,” but we thought we’d share the potential heads-up. (And whether or not you get to do any whale-watching today, remember The Whale Trail has an event tonight!)
5:21 PM: Now alongside north Vashon, per comments, as dusk approaches.
Thanks to Alki Point photographer Gary Jones for the photo of the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry M/V Kennicott, which is out on sea trials off West Seattle right now. The 20-year-old, 382-foot ferry has been at Vigor on Harbor Island, undergoing maintenance, and is due to go back into service in Alaska before month’s end.
Separate from the Coast Guard response mentioned earlier – it’s an afternoon of wild waves on West Seattle’s western shores:
That’s the view looking north from Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook, across from Me-Kwa-Mooks. Just after high tide (12:12 pm, 11.6 feet), the water was high enough to go over the stairs and walkway below:
At Constellation Park, in-car wave-watching was popular:
A texted view:
We can’t guarantee the wind will be up too, but the high tides will be much higher next week – “king tide” level – with the Wednesday (January 31st) full moon: 12.6 feet at 5:25 am that day, 12.9 feet at 6:03 am Thursday, 13.0 feet at 6:40 am Friday – that’s the peak.
Depending on the cloud cover, early risers also have the chance to see the lunar eclipse on Wednesday – starting at 3:48 am, according to Space.com. Totality will be from 4:51 am until 6:05 am; moonset is at 7:44 am.
We are at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook, after numerous reports of a US Coast Guard vessel and helicopter off Beach Drive. Big wind and waves, but the USCG was gone when we arrived, and there has been no SFD rescue dispatch of any kind.
We reached the USCG after-hours media number and they tell us they got a report of a paddleboarder in distress and sent crews to check it out but it “was a false alarm.”
ADDED 1:16 PM: Multiple readers tell us they tracked the paddleboarder in question and that he made it safely around the point to Alki (photo above), where the water is decidedly calmer.
Around 5 am, we got texts from a few people in southwesternmost West Seattle and beyond – The Arroyos and Shorewood – wondering about what appeared to be a helicopter search/rescue operation involving the U.S. Coast Guard. We couldn’t find out anything at the time, and later tried reaching the USCG by phone with no success, but now this USCG news release is just in, distributed by the King County Sheriff’s Office:
Coast Guard air and boat crews rescued one woman and recovered one man after their 15-foot paddleboat was reportedly beset by weather near Three Tree Point in Burien, Wash., Sunday morning.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Port Angeles and a Station Seattle rescue boat crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium responded to the incident and transferred both mariners to local Emergency Medical Service personnel.
Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound watchstanders received initial notification from King County Dispatch at 2:53 a.m., reporting two individuals aboard a paddleboat potentially beset by weather. Sector personnel established communication with the mariners via cell phone and reported hearing a loud scream before losing connection.
Once on scene, the Coast Guard aircrew discovered the capsized vessel near Seahurst Park.
At 4:51 a.m., the aircrew located an unresponsive female in the water and vectored in the boat crew to rescue her. The crew transported her to the Fauntleroy Ferry dock where a local EMS crew was waiting.
At 5:02 a.m., a male was recovered by the helicopter crew and transported to Boeing airfield where he was pronounced dead by a local EMS crew at 5:38 a.m.
The female is reportedly in critical condition and is being treated at Harborview Medical Center hospital.
KCSO is investigating. Sgt. Cindi West says the man who died was from Burien, the woman from Vashon Island.
Thanks to Gary Jones for the photo from Alki Point as the Bremerton-based aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) headed out, northbound in Puget Sound, late today. According to this post on the Stennis’s website, the vessel and its sailors are headed out for “routine training … scheduled to conduct flight operations, damage control and firefighting training, seamanship training, medical training, and exercises designed to maintain technical and tactical proficiency in a variety of warfare areas.”
12:41 PM: Thanks for the tip – a couple of Orca Network commenters are reported orcas seen off West Point, across Elliott Bay, described as “drifting southward” as of about 20 minutes ago. So this is early heads-up that they *might* be visible here before long. We’ll be heading out with our binoculars to look.
1:31 PM: We looked too soon. Just got a call from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales that they turned into Elliott Bay and at least half a dozen have just passed Seacrest and are “headed [northeast] toward the Space Needle.”
2 PM They have changed direction and are headed back west toward the mouth of the bay. We have also heard from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail, who is watching from Luna/Anchor Park, while Jeff is with a group at Don Armeni Boat Ramp.
3:36 PM: They turned north within the past hour, Dan on Alki tells us. We ourselves caught one glimpse as they headed back out of the bay – and then lost sight.
4:00 PM: Photos added – thanks to everyone who sent them! These were transient orcas, not residents, were told – one major difference is diet; transients eat mammals, too, which means the sea lions we saw in the vicinity were being extra brave and/or foolhardy!
12:21 PM: Thanks to Mark for the photo from Upper Fauntleroy – the sailboats are part of the Three Tree Yacht Club‘s Duwamish Head Race, which started this morning in Des Moines.
Speaking about points south – Kersti Muul has been keeping us updated on resident orcas (K Pod) seen south of here, heading this way. Orca Network commenters have seen them off north Vashon as of a few minutes ago, still northbound, so if you’re interested in whale watching, you might grab binoculars soon and head to the west-facing West Seattle shore. It’s murky out there but on the other hand, the whales stand out even more against silver water.
By the way, there’s also word a whale was seen in the area a few hours ago – swimmer Melissa was out and said her group thought it might have been a humpback – if you saw that one, let us know!
12:55 PM ORCA UPDATE: Kersti says they are moving fast, now north of Vashon.
1:04 PM: We can see them from north end of Emma Schmitz Overlook, with binoculars.
1:16 PM: Lost track of them and we’re moving on. Some of the racing yachts are still out there, and the weather has cleared somewhat, so it’s a nice view anyway if you want to try your luck.
2:57 PM: Orca Network commenters say the whales are north of West Seattle now – so our viewing time is probably over. Thanks also to Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail for calling earlier to be sure we’d heard.
And thanks to those who’ve sent more photos of the sailboats – we’re adding a few more above. Some of them must have had a great view of the whales!
5:50 PM: Thanks to Kersti for posting orca photos in comments – and to Monica Zaborac for e-mailing some, including this one showing the research boat you might have noticed today:
Researcher Mark Sears talked at last month’s Whale Trail gathering about what they do while out with the orcas.
That photo from Washington State Ferries shows WSF boss Amy Scarton christening the newest state ferry, M/V Suquamish, this afternoon at Vigor Industrial on Harbor Island. It’s the fourth Olympic Class ferry, and scheduled to go into service later this year. Before that, you’ll see it out on sea trials starting in a few months. The plan for starters is for it to be on the Mukilteo/Clinton run in the summer and be on maintenance relief for other vessels at other times of the year. The ferry’s name is explained in the announcement: “The Washington State Transportation Commission selected the vessel name in 2016 to honor the Suquamish people, a tribe that has inhabited the central Puget Sound for approximately 10,000 years.”