Shell @ T-5: New scrutiny for Polar Pioneer & ‘Solar Pioneer’

May 22, 2015 at 11:56 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

(WSB photo)
From around the Web tonight: Updates on the drilling platform Polar Pioneer and the protest barge Solar Pioneer, both still in West Seattle waters. We’d photographed the latter tonight from Don Armeni Boat Ramp after noticing it had moved, which was expected after it ran afoul of the Coast Guard, among others, as Sydney Brownstone of The Stranger has been chronicling. Tonight our partners at The Seattle Times had an update too; here’s their backstory about the barge. It’s now anchored out of the prime dive zone.

Meantime, Brownstone reports tonight that the state Department of Natural Resources is concerned Polar Pioneer might be taking up too much space in the West Waterway adjacent to T-5. So it’s asking Shell some questions, with a June 1st deadline for answers. That’s three days before the deadline for Shell, T-5 interim lease-holder Foss Maritime, and the Port of Seattle to respond to the city’s Notice of Violation, as reported here last Tuesday.

SIDE NOTE: No new protest plans reported here. But in Bellingham tonight, an activist is reported to have fastened herself to the anchor chain of a Shell barge, the Arctic Challenger.

Big weekend on the water: 528-foot floating drydock due at Vigor

May 15, 2015 at 3:17 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

(Photo courtesy Vigor Industrial)
From the what-you’ll-see-at-sea department – this just in from Vigor Industrial: A big floating drydock is due in over the weekend at its Harbor Island location, coming up from Portland. No photo yet (we’re looking for one), but here’s the announcement via a Vigor spokesperson:
Click to read the rest of Big weekend on the water: 528-foot floating drydock due at Vigor…

West Seattle scene: Orcas passing our shores in the mist

May 13, 2015 at 1:52 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 4 Comments

A little murky for whale-watching today but Bob Bollen happened to catch these two passing Alki Point, northbound, this morning, and shared the photo. No word of any in this area currently but the Orca Network FB page mentions current sightings off Whidbey Island.

UPDATE: State ferry M/V Tacoma towed back to dock; replaced by boat from Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth run

May 8, 2015 at 4:47 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

4:47 PM: M/V Tacoma, which serves the Seattle-Bainbridge state-ferry run, has just broken down, and is under tow right now. Thanks to the reader who tipped us via text; we often get questions about ferries that look to be in trouble off West Seattle shores, so we’re mentioning this pre-emptively. Thanks to @sudsymaggie for the photo:

Tacoma is the ferry that was out of service for eight months after a breakdown last July.

4:55 PM: Tacoma has been towed to Colman Dock. “This will cancel the 4:40pm and 6:20pm sailing from Seattle and the 5:30pm and 7:10pm sailing from Bainbridge Island,” says WSF.

7:04 PM: Tacoma remains out of service and for now, the Issaquah has been moved from Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth, which subsequently is down to two boats. But thanks again to tipster Maggie, we know that State Sen. Sharon Nelson (who represents this area and lives on Maury Island) has been told that if Tacoma’s troubles persist, Evergreen State will be brought in to be a lower-capacity third vessel on F-V-S.

What you’ll see at sea (and in port): 3 notes for today & tomorrow

May 1, 2015 at 11:17 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

Three things West Seattle water-watchers might want to know about in the next two days:

TERMINAL 5: The car carrier Ryujin, which the Port of Seattle expected at Terminal 5 earlier this week, wound up stopping at Port Angeles for a while, and port spokesperson Peter McGraw says it’s now due in Seattle tonight:

We are now expecting the Ryujin to arrive at T-5 at 10:00 PM on Friday May 1st,
offloading to begin at 8:00 AM on Saturday May 2nd, leaving at 5:00 PM that day.

Speaking of Port Angeles, if you’re awaiting the big oil rig Polar Pioneer‘s arrival at T-5, it hasn’t left PA yet (the Chamber of Commerce’s webcam is still pointed at it).

SPOT SHRIMP SEASON: Last year, we didn’t know about this in advance, and were surprised to see Don Armeni packed with trailers, and the bay full of boats. This year, we’ve been watching for it, and we can tell you that tomorrow is the first day in which spot-shrimp fishing is allowed in this area, so you are likely to see a TON of traffic from the boat ramp and offshore. 7 am-3 pm Saturday (and then again on May 13th)

CRUISE SHIP SEASON: First one is Holland America Line’s Westerdam, and the port says it’s scheduled to enter the bay around 6:30 tomorrow morning. It’ll be docking at the Magnolia/Smith Cove terminal, leaving around 4 pm. This year’s cruise-ship schedule is here.

UPDATE: Air, sea search off Alki after life ring spotted off Bainbridge-bound state ferry

April 26, 2015 at 10:05 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, WS breaking news | 6 Comments

10:05 PM: Thanks to the texter who asked about a stopped ferry off Alki. According to a tweet from the Bainbridge Island Fire Department, there was a report of a possible person overboard from the Bainbridge-bound M/V Puyallup. We note via that Seattle fireboat Leschi is in the area too, and the Bremerton ferry M/V Kaleetan is stopped. The BIFD said the U.S. Coast Guard also would be responding.

10:11 PM UPDATE: Washington State Ferries has now acknowledged the “search and rescue operation” via its “bulletins” page.

10:29 PM UPDATE: Per BIFD, the Coast Guard is sending a helicopter to help.

10:42 PM UPDATE: Our partners at The Seattle Times quote the USCG as saying this started when a life ring with a strobe light was spotted in the water, and that a head count was being done aboard M/V Puyallup to try to determine if anyone is missing. It’s now headed back to Colman Dock.

11:31 PM UPDATE: The Coast Guard has tweeted that it’s still searching. Puyallup remains docked in Seattle, while Kaleetan headed back to Bremerton. (Added: Three minutes after this update, Puyallup left for Bainbridge.)

FOLLOWUP: Shell’s Polar Pioneer floated off heavy-lift ship, but not West Seattle-bound yet

April 26, 2015 at 11:24 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

At left in that image from a few minutes ago is the heavy-lift ship Blue Marlin, anchored in Port Angeles, notably no longer carrying the eventually-West-Seattle-bound drill rig Polar Pioneer, which it carried across the Pacific for Shell. Nine days after arriving in PA, the two were separated early this morning. We had been watching the slow-going operation for hours via a Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce webcam – here’s the view from just before dusk Saturday:

(We requested and were granted the PA Chamber’s permission to publish those images.) Right now, the drilling platform is no longer in view, as it is being towed to a closer-in Port Angeles anchorage, according to the Peninsula Daily News, which reports it will undergo about a week more of work, before it’s to be towed to Seattle. Also in Port Angeles is the first Shell vessel that had arrived at T-5, the icecutter Aiviq, which has been in PA since Friday and is currently shown on as one of several vessels surrounding the Polar Pioneer as it moves through the PA’s harbor (others include at least four tugs owned by Foss, which will host the PP as part of its T-5 lease).

Shell’s second T-5-bound drill vessel, the Noble Discoverer, is still crossing the Pacific – it spent some time off Honolulu last Thursday, according to its track on Shell told the PDN that the drillship – which was last here in 2012 – will be proceeding directly to Seattle rather than stopping in PA as did the Polar Pioneer.

Reel Paddling Film Festival: West Seattle screening Friday night

April 22, 2015 at 12:10 pm | In Seen at sea, Triangle, West Seattle news | Comments Off

Right in time for Earth Day week, you have the chance to enjoy a film festival celebrating the beauty of our world’s waterways and the joy of exploring them. Mountain To Sound Outfitters is hosting a tour stop of the Reel Paddling Film Festival, 7 pm Friday (April 24th). The screening venue is just steps from M2SO’s shop in The Triangle, at Pershing Hall (inside the West Seattle Veterans’ Center/American Legion Post 160 building at 37th/Alaska). We just checked with M2SO proprietor Greg Whittaker and he says tickets are still available – buy online or at the door.

West Seattle sunshine scenes: In the sky and on the sea

April 20, 2015 at 5:05 pm | In Seen around town, Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

Headed home? Enjoy the sunshine – forecast suggests it might not be back tomorrow. Above, a paraglider was in flight again this afternoon over the West Seattle shore – we caught him headed southbound over Emma Schmitz Overlook/Me-Kwa-Mooks. Don’t know if it’s the same one we featured two months ago. Below, the newest state ferry Samish is still out on sea trials; we spotted it this morning from Charlestown Hill:

The Samish is the second of three 144-car ferries being built at Vigor on Harbor Island and is expected to start service in June in the San Juan Islands – but if you see a ferry off West Seattle making unusual moves between now and then, it’s probably this one.

West Seattle weekend scenes: Along the shore, in the sunshine

April 19, 2015 at 4:39 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | Comments Off

ORIGINAL REPORT, 4:39 PM: Thanks to Don Brubeck for these photos showing some of what was up and who was out along West Seattle shores this afternoon.

P.S. At least one more sunny day is in store, according to the forecast – and if you have the chance to be out at the beach in the early afternoon, it’s the lowest tide of the month, -1.7 feet at 12:47 pm on Monday.

ADDED 5:13 PM: Speaking of low tide – an incident at Alki today is a reminder for boaters:

Low tide, bad luck from Avenue Collection on Vimeo.

Mark just shared that video of a small boat getting some help to get un-stuck during this morning’s low tide.

VIDEO: Orcas in the area again, caught on video by Vashon Island

April 18, 2015 at 4:30 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | Comments Off

Thanks to Lindsay for sharing the video – without much notice, two killer whales headed south along Vashon Island shores earlier today, around 1 pm. She says the sighting was a surprise, while she was giving a tour of the area to two friends visiting from Colorado. Also, a texter told us of a sighting near Brown’s Point in Tacoma, so if you’re by the water, keep watch – they’ll have to come back this way sooner or later.

Seen off West Seattle: More helicopter-and-boat photography

April 16, 2015 at 9:58 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 6 Comments

Thanks to Nicole for the photo – this caught some eyes on the water off West Seattle’s western shores early this evening. Reminds us of the photo shoot last month involving a boat built for the Tunisian Navy. But according to our friends at Beach Drive Blog, who had a front-row seat this time, the helicopter clearly had a camera mount and the name on the yacht began with Endurance. BDB wondered if it might be one of these yachts. (Maybe the E720?)

FOLLOWUP: First vessel to arrive as part of Shell’s Arctic fleet, Aiviq, now docked at Terminal 5; Polar Pioneer/Blue Marlin approaching Strait of Juan de Fuca

April 16, 2015 at 11:21 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 29 Comments

11:21 AM: Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photo, and to others for the tips: The first vessel in Shell‘s Arctic-drilling/support fleet has arrived in Seattle, and has docked at Terminal 5 (per It’s the Aiviq, mentioned here just last night in connection with the U.S. Coast Guard’s announcement of “safety zones” around the vessels expected here as part of Foss’s T-5 lease. The Aiviq is a three-year-old icebreaker that was among the Shell-related vessels that spent time here in 2012 before the company’s most-recent Arctic drilling attempts.

ADDED 11:52 AM: And for the first time in the weeks we’ve been watching for it, the Blue Marlin, carrying the drilling platform Polar Pioneer, is in range, approaching the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the northwesternmost tip of Washington state, on schedule with its announced arrival in Port Angeles by tomorrow.

West Seattle Whale Watch: Return of the orcas!

April 15, 2015 at 10:46 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 7 Comments

10:46 AM: According to a text tipster and the Orca Network Facebook page, you just might see orcas between Fauntleroy and Vashon right now – heading slowly southbound, according to observers, but at some point they might turn around, so this is your official heads-up that they’re in the area. Please comment if you see them! (And we ALWAYS appreciate texted tips about so many things – 206-293-6302, any time of the day/night.)

12:24 PM: We didn’t have any luck right around 11 from the Brace Point area – but two commenters have been watching more recently – thanks for the updates!

ADDED 7:44 AM: Some video from Wednesday, posted to YouTube and credited to Alisa Lemire Brooks/Orca Network, identifying these orcas as transients, not residents.

Congratulations! Emmy nominations for sea-star photography by ‘Diver Laura’ James

April 13, 2015 at 9:57 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 7 Comments

Congratulations to frequent WSB contributor “Diver Laura” James and her colleagues on that 2014 KCTS report about the sea-star die-off – they’ve been nominated for the Pacific Northwest Emmy Awards. That’s one of two nominations for Laura – her underwater photography of the sea-star situation also is part of another Emmy-nominated KCTS report, “Is Alaska Safe for Starfish?” Last year, she won one for another public-TV project, about sea otters and climate change. The full list of this year’s regional Emmy Award nominations is here; the winners will be announced in June.

From the ‘in case you wonder’ file: Ship at Terminal 5 tonight

April 8, 2015 at 7:19 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | Comments Off

The Port of Seattle says you will see a container ship at closed-since-last-summer Terminal 5 in West Seattle starting tonight. But it has nothing to do with the Foss lease/Shell/etc. According to an FYI note we received from spokesperson Peter McGraw: “The Hanjin Copenhagen will be at T-5 starting this evening for the next few days to address a Coast Guard requirement before leaving port.” According to, the ship is crossing the bay right now, so should be docking at T-5 soon.

FOLLOWUP: M/V Sally Fox takes over Vashon Water Taxi run starting Wednesday afternoon

April 7, 2015 at 4:01 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

(WSB photo, taken from Vashon Island on March 29th)
You’ll be seeing a lot more of the M/V Sally Fox off West Seattle shores starting tomorrow afternoon: Vashon Island’s new Water Taxi officially goes into service with the 4:30 pm run on Wednesday, as just announced by the county. Here’s our coverage of the Sally Fox dedication ceremony on Vashon a week and a half ago. It’s a twin to the M/V Doc Maynard, under construction now and due to take over the West Seattle Water Taxi run in October.

Puget Sound’s orcas welcome fourth calf in three months

March 31, 2015 at 11:39 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 7 Comments

(Photo by naturalist/researcher Jeanne Hyde, Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching)
Word started getting around last night that Puget Sound’s orcas, the Southern Resident Killer Whales, have another new baby – and researchers have confirmed that this is the fourth calf spotted in three months. Three of them, including this one, were born to J Pod. The first report came from the Pacific Whale Watch Association; one of its members, Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching, spotted the baby off Galiano Island, British Columbia, on Monday. This means the SRKWs – J Pod, K Pod, L Pod – are up to 81 orcas in the wild (and the 82nd, Tokitae/Lolita, in captivity in Florida). The newest baby is J52; it’s been exactly three months since J50 was spotted, followed by J51 in mid-February, and then the L Pod baby two weeks later.

In case you wondered: Washington State Ferries’ new Samish is on sea trials again right now

March 30, 2015 at 5:25 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | Comments Off

(WSB photo added: M/V Samish in Elliott Bay early this evening, after sea trials off western WS)
We’ve just received a flurry of calls about a ferry off west-facing West Seattle shores, outside the usual lanes and apparently closer to shore than ferries usually get, plus, one texter says it’s “going in circles.” We mentioned it on Friday but if you missed that – it’s just the new, Vigor-built ferry Samish, out on sea trials before it officially joins the fleet. (The larger Tacoma, which had also been testing off WS following repairs, is now back on the Bainbridge run.)

West Seattle weekend scene: Three Tree Point yacht race

March 28, 2015 at 3:36 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | Comments Off

(Photo by DLBJ)
Thanks to everyone who’s shared photos of the yachts seen today off West Seattle’s west-facing shores … it’s the Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle‘s Three Tree Point race.

(Photo by WSB’s Patrick Sand)

(Photo by Gary Jones)
Couple more to come. Results from today’s race are linked from this page on the club’s website.

In case you wondered: State ferries still on test runs off West Seattle

March 27, 2015 at 10:51 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | Comments Off

10:51 AM: Two notes about ferries that appeared to be “dead in the water off Alki” this morning remind us that we should mention this again: Washington State Ferries has two vessels in testing/sea trials in and around Elliott Bay right now, and if you see something unusual, it’s probably one (or both!) of them. The Tacoma is still on sea trials after months of repairs, before returning to the Bainbridge Island run; the Samish, newly built at Vigor on Harbor Island, is testing before officially joining the fleet.

ADDED FRIDAY NIGHT: Turns out M/V Tacoma is officially going back into service tomorrow (Saturday, March 28), according to this announcement from WSF.

Seen off West Seattle: Two helicopters, boat marked ‘Tunisia Navy’

March 26, 2015 at 2:47 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 20 Comments

2:47 PM: An unusual sighting, shared by Gary Jones, who photographs from Alki Point: Seen in the noon hour, a boat marked “Tunisia Navy,” with two helicopters nearby.

Their markings match what we saw on two helicopters passing overhead, westbound, one behind the other, as we arrived at HQ in Upper Fauntleroy after a noontime trip.

Backstory? We don’t know yet. At first, we wondered about a movie shoot (Seattle wouldn’t seem to be much of a stand-in for Tunisia, which is on the Mediterranean Sea in North Africa, but you’ll recall Alki doubling for Florida) – then a bit of Googling revealed that the U.S. donated two similar types of patrol boats to Tunisia seven months ago and was planning to donate more. Still checking around. Know anything? as always.

8:44 PM: After a couple of e-mail tipsters suggested we check with local boatmakers that build military-style patrol boats, we sent out queries around 5 pm and just received this reply from sales manager Kevin Rowlee at Bremerton-based SAFE Boats International:

Yes, that was a boat built by SAFE Boats International. It is a “65 Full Cabin – Inboard” destined for the Tunisia Navy. The boat you saw was the second of two boats purchased under the same contract.

Commenter Brian confirms the photo-shoot angle.

West Seattle whale-watching: Orcas in the area

March 25, 2015 at 10:13 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 1 Comment

Thanks to Norman for the tip via Twitter, and we see the Orca Network Facebook commenters are discussing it too: Orcas turned up along the Bainbridge ferry route earlier this morning and have now been seen heading south along West Seattle (Me-Kwa-Mooks, says Norman) – let us know if you see them!

Early alert: Aircraft carrier John C. Stennis to sail by on Monday

March 20, 2015 at 9:59 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

FRIDAY NIGHT, 9:59 PM: For West Seattle water watchers who appreciate advance notice of significant sail-bys – the U.S. Navy sent word today that the carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) will be heading back out from Bremerton on Monday (March 23rd), for at-sea training exercises. No specific time yet.

MONDAY MORNING, 9:19 AM: The Stennis may already have gone by – we checked a few minutes ago and there is an unspecified “Navy unit” already north of Elliott Bay. (9:45 note – yes, it’s passed, and we’re publishing reader photos.)

Port of Seattle’s ‘West Seattle Working Waterfront’ tour postponed

March 13, 2015 at 10:36 pm | In Port of Seattle, Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

Quick FYI in case you had blocked out the date for the Port of Seattle‘s free “West Seattle Working Waterfront” boat tour next month, promoted by port reps at several community-council meetings recently and mentioned in our subsequent reports: We got word today that it’s been postponed. Port events manager Mary Jean Stephens says it’s been rescheduled for the morning of September 19th; registration information will recirculate during the summer.

Seen off West Seattle: USS Ranger under tow to scrapyard

March 5, 2015 at 3:06 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 12 Comments

(Added 4 pm: Texted photo – thanks!)
Like the Constellation last year, the mothballed aircraft carrier USS Ranger is now under tow from Bremerton to a Texas scrapyard. shows it off south Bainbridge with tugboats including the 155-foot oceangoing tug Lindsey Foss; it should be visible from north West Seattle. Here are details from the Kitsap Sun, which reports the USS Independence will be next to make the same, final journey.

ADDED: Thanks to Gary Jones for the photo added above this line.

Elliott Bay sea trials ahead for Washington State Ferries’ M/V Tacoma

March 5, 2015 at 9:00 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | Comments Off

(WSDOT photo from Wednesday as Tacoma’s tow got under way from Bainbridge Island)
If you saw that big state ferry under tow in Elliott Bay toward downtown on Wednesday – it was the M/V Tacoma, and you’ll see a lot more of it from here over the next three weeks, even before it goes back into service on the Bainbridge-Seattle run next month following seven months of work. From the Washington State Ferries‘ announcement about its sea trials:

… Starting (today) people may see the Tacoma in Elliott Bay or at Colman Dock as crews conduct three weeks of sea trials to thoroughly test the ferry’s new circuit breaker.

“During the past seven months, we inspected and rebuilt the damaged propulsion switchboard system,” said Tim Browning, acting director of vessel maintenance and preservation. “Now it’s time to test the system and make sure it is working properly while the vessel is underway.” …

Once the testing is complete, the Tacoma will undergo its annual U.S. Coast Guard safety inspection before returning to service on the Seattle/Bainbridge Island route in April.

The Tacoma, built in 1997, lost power on July 29, 2014, while traveling from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. A design flaw prevented a protective circuit-breaker device to work as it should. This caused a chain of events that resulted in significant damage to the electrical switchboard components, which ultimately led to the power failure.

P.S. Thanks to Janna for the tip about this.

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