West Seattle, Washington
If you’re noticing a foot ferry in Elliott Bay that didn’t appear to be one of the King County Water Taxi fleet – that’s the Kitsap Transit fast ferry Rich Passage 1. It’s out on the bay right now after an official showcase on the downtown Seattle waterfront this morning, with King County Executive Dow Constantine and County Council Chair Joe McDermott speaking, because the King County Department of Transportation’s Marine Division will be operating the 78-foot Rich Passage 1 for KT. Kitsap voters approved a sales-tax increase to fund the new service; it’s scheduled to start running between Bremerton and Seattle this year, Kingston and Seattle next year, and Southworth and Seattle in 2020. The Rich Passage 1 is to be the first of six boats comprising the Kitsap Transit fleet. It was built by All American Marine in Bellingham, which also built the Doc Maynard and Sally Fox for the KC Water Taxi service.
1:41 PM: Just noticed via MarineTraffic.com that the Military Sealift Command ship USNS Sgt. Matej Kocak has arrived at Terminal 5. The Port of Seattle told WSB on January 5th that it was due to stop at T-5 January 9-15, so we’ve been watching for it. The 821-foot Kocak is a “surge sealift ship,” as explained here. As previously reported, another Military Sealift Command ship, USNS Bob Hope, might berth here later this year – we haven’t heard yet whether the proposal by the port and Foss Maritime was accepted.
4:17 PM: Alki photographer David Hutchinson just sent photos of the Kocak’s arrival (thank you!) – added above.
ADDED 3:10 PM: Thanks to Lynn Hall for one more view – this one, from Duwamish Head itself:
More info on today’s race is here.
Visible from West Seattle this morning, in what’s known as the Yukon Harbor anchorage area, just off Manchester, north of Blake Island, a submarine joined the anchored cargo ships for more than an hour. Thanks to Tom Stoner for the photo (and to John for an earlier tip). An unusual sight – usually they’re just glimpsed while on the move – so we have a few calls out, but now it looks to be headed, with its tug escorts, into Rich Passage and toward Bremerton.
That’s a new 360-degree video shared by “Diver Laura” James – while the video is playing, you can grab and pull it with your cursor to look all around (provided your browser/device is compatible). She was experimenting “with the Samsung Gear 360 in a home-brew housing,” diving at Cove 2 by Seacrest Pier, a few days ago at dusk.
While out checking on the combination of gusty wind and 12+-foot high tide this past hour, we also saw this, from Constellation Park just south of Alki Point: The USNS Wally Schirra, headed northbound. We also showed it here when it was headed southbound back in October – later that month, it was out on exercises with Bremerton-based USS Nimitz. It’s a supply ship, part of the Military Sealift Command, but smaller than the USNS Bob Hope, which as reported here last week might berth next year at Terminal 5.
9 AM: Thanks for the tip! A texter tells WSB an aircraft carrier is about to pass West Seattle, and MarineTraffic.com identifies it as the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), headed southbound. According to the Kitsap Sun, the Stennis was in Hawaii earlier this month for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack (more here).
9:37 AM: Thanks to Doug Greenswag for the photo above!
10:30 AM: And thanks to Don Bereiter (from WSB sponsor Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate) for the view from Port Orchard, above and below this line.
This was the second aircraft-carrier sighting from here in three days; the other carrier currently based at Bremerton, USS Nimitz, returned home early Thursday.
Thanks to those who sent us photos of another submarine sighting off Alki Point this afternoon – this photo is from Bruce Easter. Identifying a submarine is not as easy (for the non-expert, anyway) as identifying other types of Navy vessels, so we don’t know which one this was. Fewer submarines are homeported in Bremerton than in Bangor on Hood Canal, but passing subs aren’t necessarily homeported there – it’s also a base for maintenance and decommissioning.
Thanks to Alisa for the tip: Washington State Ferries reported southbound orcas about half an hour ago off Bainbridge Island’s Restoration Point. “Presumably residents,” she adds, noting that J-Pod was seen in the Sound yesterday. Please let us know if you see them!
9:51 PM: The Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship is wrapping up a night of stops in our area – Lowman Beach Park, Alki Beach Park, Duwamish Waterway Park on the river in South Park, and Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor). At most park stops, bonfires keep the beachgoers warm:
The ship travels with musical groups on board, serenading passengers as well as those on shore, visiting an ever-longer list of stops around Puget Sound, Lake Union, and Lake Washington during the holiday season. Its sailings continue nightly until Christmas Eve-Eve (December 23rd) – here’s the schedule on the Argosy site.
ADDED SUNDAY MORNING: More from the Alki stop – the photos and video are by Jeff Larson, for WSB. The Calvary Chapel “live nativity” is a fixture every year:
Kayla Laskovon portrayed Mary:
Musicians from Seattle Lutheran High School performed at the Bathhouse:
While the Christmas Ship is provided by Argosy, much of what happens onshore is courtesy of Seattle Parks. Below, John Hasslinger surrounded by his teen volunteers from Hiawatha Community Center:
Their work was appreciated by eventgoers:
And that bonfire? Overseen by James Lohman and Becky Lofso from Parks:
Check our Holiday Guide for more of what is in store as the holiday season continues.
The Whale Trail‘s Donna Sandstrom sends early warning that orcas might be swimming southbound off West Seattle before sunset. She reports that Orca Network‘s Kersti Muul reported them off Richmond Beach, and so she’ll be looking northward from Alki starting around 3 pm. Just an early alert since the weather’s good – for now! – and we have about two more hours of light.
10:52 AM: Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail sends word of orcas in the area – southbound. More to come – we’re headed for the shore to see if anyone’s caught view of them here.
11:17 AM: Just found Donna on the west end of the Alki Beach Park promenade. She says they’re not in view yet.
Thanks to Bob Spears for the photo of an unusual scene Friday off Alki. He explained, “Five seals hung out just offshore for over an hour and frequently appeared to be doing a water ballet with their heads, a single fin, and their tails out of the water. Fun to watch and with their barking they attached quite a crowd of people on the beach.” The behavior is known as “rafting,” most often seen among California sea lions, and sometimes people mistake it for a sign of distress – the Seal Sitters website has a good explanation here.
Thanks to Doug for the photo – a submarine has just passed West Seattle, heading back to Naval Base Kitsap. It’s been 13 days since one was seen headed the other way; no way to tell if it’s the same one, since the sub itself doesn’t show up on trackers like MarineTraffic.com (though at least one escort tug is showing there).
Diver Laura‘s been out again testing apparel and equipment off our shore, and this video is of note not only as a reminder that the stormwater from our streets and roofs ends up in Puget Sound … but also for the fish that were hanging out with her by the outfall. “Hordes of shiner perch,” she explains. “They’ve been like that for a couple weeks, hanging out in droves.”
8:41 AM: Thanks for the tips – orcas are reported to be in the area again today. The person who called said they’re closer to the Vashon/Blake side, across from Fauntleroy; Jason points us to an Orca Network sighting thread with reports that they’re spread out and not necessarily heading in one direction. So if you’re on-peninsula and interested, take your binoculars over to the west-facing shore and have a look! (They were seen Sunday morning in Elliott Bay, as reported here, but the weather was a little murky for optimal viewing.)
9:06 AM: Thanks to Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail for this update – it’s a large group and they’re heading north, visible from the Alki area currently.
9:24 AM: Just got a report that a ferry going between Bremerton and Seattle has stopped so the orcas can pass!
9:36 AM: Just added (the top) photo from Gary Jones in the Alki Point area. Meantime, our texter says the ferry is moving again. (206-293-6302 any time, text or voice, that’s our breaking-news hotline, and whale sightings are always news!)
11:31 AM: Gary sent more photos that we’ve added to this story, including one showing the Bremerton ferry riders (aboard M/V Walla Walla) whale-watching as mentioned.
— shannon (@seapaddler) November 14, 2016
4:19 PM: Thanks to Shannon for the heads-up via Twitter. The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), which returned to Bremerton 10 days ago after almost a month away, is on its way out of Rich Passage right now – just a note for ship-watchers.
4:43 PM: Caught a glimpse from the west end of Alki Beach Park. It’s headed northbound fast.
5:22 PM: Added the photo we took (via long lens) from the promenade.
8 AM: The weather’s a little murky but if you’re near the water – keep watch for whales. Todd reports a northbound sighting just now, Alki area, headed toward Magnolia.
8:03 AM: Just after posting that, we got a text with another report and more details:
7:30 am-7:50 am, orcas seen between the west end of Alki Beach promenade and Alki Point. Adult and adolescent, possibly one more. Initially 50-100 yards from shore, gradually moving away from shore toward Magnolia, then diagonally toward Pier 91/Queen Anne.Exhibited what I would describe as feeding behavior – circling and roiling the water.
3:11 PM: Thanks to Aaron for the texted tip – whale sighting, northbound, between Blake Island and Alki Point, likely a humpback.
Thanks to the texter who sent that photo a few minutes ago. It’s the USS Nimitz, headed back to Bremerton after leaving October 5th for sea trials and flight certification following a quarter-billion dollars of work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The Navy announced last December that even after that work, the Nimitz will remain homeported in Bremerton at least three more years.
12:40 PM: Thanks to the texter who pointed out that Orca Network spotters are seeing orcas heading this way – southbound from Discovery Park on the north side of Elliott Bay as of a little while ago. So if you can, watch for them from West Seattle shores, and please let us know if you see them; we won’t be able to check for a while.
P.S. Our most-recent whale report involved humpbacks passing by on Saturday – if you only saw the early version, we have since added an awesome photo.
1:33 PM: Another texter says they’re visible from Constellation Park right now.
2:01 PM: Thanks to Gary Jones for photos from Alki Point!
2:54 PM: They’ve passed Fauntleroy, according to comment updates; you’re advised to watch for Mark Sears’s small research boat. From up here on the hillside, we’re seeing seiners apparently chasing the same salmon as the orcas.
3:48 PM: If you’re out watching for the orcas, you might see another type of whale too – one commenter mentions a southbound humpback, while an e-mail tip mentions what looked like a northbound gray headed toward the lighthouse a little while ago. (If you’re not sure what you’re seeing, here’s the ID guide on West Seattle-based The Whale Trail‘s site.)
4:56 PM: Now headed northbound, says Susan in comments.
ADDED MONDAY NIGHT: Thanks to Monica Zaborac for two more photos of the orcas that visited today!