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West Seattle whale watching: Orcas in the area!

2:32 PM: Thanks to Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail for the tip: She says orcas are in the area right now, between Blake Island and Vashon Island, headed south as of her call at 2:28 pm. They’re closer to the other side, so you need good binoculars to see them, but if you’d rather watch whales than football, get over to Beach Drive and points south! She says they’re believed to be transients, not the Southern Residents.

2:52 PM: We can see them from Upper Fauntleroy – heading southbound along Vashon’s east shore, just south of the ferry lane. Moving fast, and quickly out of our peek view; definitely closer to Vashon than this side.

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New state ferry M/V Chimacum christened at Vigor on Harbor Island

(WSF photo via Twitter)

Within a few months, you’ll see the next new Washington State Ferries vessel, M/V Chimacum, out on sea trials, now that it’s been christened. That happened in a ceremony this morning at Vigor on Harbor Island. Here’s the WSF announcement:

Sunny skies and a shiny new Washington state ferry graced Vigor’s Harbor Island Shipyard in Seattle today as the Washington State Department of Transportation christened Chimacum, the fleet’s third Olympic Class vessel.

In a traditional maritime ceremony, Washington State Ferries Assistant Secretary Lynne Griffith broke a bottle of champagne to officially welcome the new ferry to the fleet. Gov. Jay Inslee, along with Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar and Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, spoke during the event. The Chimacum High School marching band added to the festivities.

The christening marks the Chimacum’s final stage of construction and its preparation for sea trials.

“The Washington state ferry system is among the best in the world. I am so pleased that the Chimacum is being built efficiently, on-budget and ahead of schedule,” Inslee said. “This is great for the state’s taxpayers and our maritime industry.”

“Chimacum joins a hard-working fleet that connects people and communities as part of our state’s integrated, multimodal transportation system,” Millar said. “Washington’s marine highways carry more than 24 million people every year, so it’s critical for us to replace our oldest ferries and plan for the future.”

“This represents a tremendous achievement for the men and women who have helped build this beautiful vessel,” Griffith said. “I am honored to christen our new ferry and I look forward to riding on Chimacum when she enters service next year.”

The 144-car Chimacum will begin its sea trials in early 2017 and will start carrying passengers on the Seattle/Bremerton route next spring. The Washington State Transportation Commission selected the vessel name in 2014 to honor the gathering place of the Chimacum people, which is now the present-day town of Chimacum near Port Townsend.

Chimacum is the third of four funded Olympic Class ferries that replace the aging, midcentury-era Evergreen State Class vessels. The first Olympic Class vessel, Tokitae, joined the Mukilteo/Clinton route in June 2014. The second, Samish, started service on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route in June 2015. Suquamish, the fourth vessel in the class, is under construction at Vigor and will enter service in 2019.

Back in May, WSB’s Christopher Boffoli covered a media tour of Chimacum and the keel-laying ceremony for Suquamish – see his photos here.

VIDEO: Orcas pass West Seattle, southbound

2016-9-5-6856-4+ orcas in front of ferry
(Added late Monday afternoon – photo by Trileigh Tucker)

2:11 PM: Just got a report from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail that orcas – transients, not the Southern Residents – are headed southbound toward Alki Point. And she says they’re reported to be close to this side of the water.

2:44 PM: As of a few minutes ago, an Orca Network sighting report had them near the Vashon ferry.

3:14 PM: Just tweeted by @corybe – the video below, showing the orcas still heading southbound, closer to the Vashon shore, seen from the Fauntleroy-bound ferry:

360 VIDEO: See who and what’s in the water off Alki Beach

What you see above is a new 360-degree video from “Diver Laura” James, a look at the “Junkyard” area off Alki Beach earlier this week, as she and dive buddy Lamont tested a new camera array. If you haven’t viewed this type of video before, it’s an active experience rather than passive – after you hit “play,” click and grab the video to see above, below, and all around. (We enjoyed looking up at the fish swimming near the surface.) Here are the accompanying notes from Laura:

The site is in full summer colors, with healthy looking and very ‘tall’ eelgrass and numerous fish. In the video I think I can make out 3 or 4 separate species of schooling fish. Shiner Perch, sand lance, tube snouts and possibly a salmon swimming through disturbing them all :)

There is still evidence of Sea Star wasting syndrome, when the small sunflower stars reach a certain size (just bigger than my hand) it seems some specimens become susceptible to the disease and proceed to tear themselves apart. There are numerous leather stars, and on the artificial habitat further towards the beach house noted several generations of rockfish from tiny, tiny babies to moderate-size adolescents and an adult or two.

We un-snagged a crab trap that had gotten wrapped around the bathtub and daisy-chained it’s rope so it won’t re-snag. So if a reader happened to have a snagged pot out there, well, it’s now free for you to collect.

Of note, folks should be aware that in the nearshore area there is often a fair bit of ‘habitat’ (read: our cast away junk that becomes home to critters) and it is very easy for the sinky nylon crab pot line to get entangled in the shifting currents and up and down tides. Often these free themselves after a night or so of current/tide changes, but if someone does snag or loose a pot not to far from shore where there is public beach access (and if no beach access maybe they could contact the homeowner and gain one time access), and then perhaps could post to the WSB Forum and that way a local diver could go un-snag it and therefor not have it continue fishing without supervision. This is obviously no guarantee, because the diver would be doing it out of the goodness of her heart, time allowed.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Since sharing the video earlier this week, Diver Laura also has sent a clip showing how she set up the 360 camera, and also her work with the aforementioned crab pot. You can watch that video here.

Soon to sail past West Seattle: Tall ship Lady Washington

3:14 PM: For everyone who appreciates a heads-up on offshore sightings: Our friends at Argosy Cruises just pointed out that the tall ship Lady Washington is headed this way. shows it off Normandy Park right now, headed north at about 6 knots. It’s on its way to Kirkland for tours this weekend after a stint in Tacoma.

Orca J14 is missing: One of Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Killer Whales hasn’t been seen in 3 weeks

(Photo by Dave Ellifrit)

The Center for Whale Research just announced that one of Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales is missing:

J14, a 42-year old female in J pod, is considered missing. Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research last saw her on July 31. Center for Whale Research staff members have since had three on-the-water encounters with the rest of her matriline but she was not present.

J14, also known as Samish – named by the Samish Tribe – was born in 1974, the first year Dr. Mike Bigg, commissioned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, started studying the Southern Resident killer whales. She has three living offspring: daughters J37 and J40 and son J45; she is also grandmother to J37’s calf J49. J14 is the only known daughter of J12 and a possible descendant of J2.  

CWR staff member Melisa Pinnow last photographed J14 from shore on August 3rd. When last seen in July, J14 gave no indication of being sick or otherwise unhealthy.

We will wait to have one more definitive encounter with the J14’s before recording her as indeed deceased.

West Seattle water views now part of Google Maps, along with Street View(s)


That’s a Google Street View mapping-photography car we spotted on eastbound Avalon at 35th this afternoon. Google’s 360-degree views from the road have been around for a while, but our sighting coincides with word we got this week that the mapping service is offering something new in our area: Water views.

A PR rep for Google Maps e-mailed WSB to say that West Seattle views on/from the water have recently gone live; the mapping service partnered with Coastwise Imaging, using the Trekker backpack system (you can see the equipment on the Coastwise site).

If you want to see the water views, you can click any of the following four links we were provided – Alki Beach (starting near Anchor/Luna Park), Alki Point, Duwamish Head (starts by Seacrest), and the Duwamish Waterway (starts near Terminal 5, with the image showing the Shell-related vessels that left two months ago) – among 20 Seattle waterway views now available via Google Maps.


Seen off West Seattle: US Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf


Just happened to be at Don Armeni Boat Ramp and saw this U.S. Coast Guard Cutter passing by, headed toward downtown, so we looked it up. It’s the 418-foot USCGC Bertholf, homeported at Alameda, California. It made news in March for busting two drug submarines in less than a year; another article online describes the Bertholf as “the Coast Guard’s most advanced counternarcotics ship.”

P.S. Looks like it’s headed for Vigor on Harbor Island rather than for the Coast Guard station.

P.P.S. … or maybe not. A Vigor spokesperson tells us the Bertholf isn’t due for two more weeks – September 1st – for the work mentioned in the link above.

Seen off West Seattle: USS John C. Stennis, homeward bound


Thanks to JayDee for the photo from Upper Alki. That’s the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), seen making the turn around south Bainbridge Island this afternoon, due home in Bremerton tonight after a seven-month deployment. We reported on its departure January 15. The Navy says the Stennis and its strike group were deployed to the “Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” including two months in the South China Sea.

FAUNTLEROY WHALE FOLLOWUP: Towed, sunk by Global Diving and Salvage crew

8:40 AM: We’re at the Fauntleroy ferry dock, where a crew from Global Diving and Salvage is getting ready to tow away the carcass of the 39-foot juvenile humpback whale that died on the beach here Sunday (WSB all-day coverage here; photo/video followup here). First, it had to be evaluated:


The whale has been out of view, submerged, since a Washington State Ferries “shore gang” tied it to floats Sunday night and towed it to a spot along the dock where it’s been secured since then.

As we reported last night, Global – which is based in West Seattle – got the call on Monday that its assistance would be needed to dispose of the whale, which is to be sunk in Puget Sound rather than taken to a beach to decompose. Its 62-foot landing-craft-type vessel Prudhoe Bay – also known for bringing the Seafair Pirates to Alki Beach each summer – pulled up just after 8 am:


Global Diving and Salvage executives tell WSB they’ve assisted with whales before – including the fin whale that turned up at Seahurst Park in Burien in 2013.


9:13 AM: The crew has secured floats – and therefore, the whale – to the Prudhoe Bay, and is sailing away from the dock, headed for a “pre-approved” sinking site. (We’ve added video atop this story, and will be adding more photos later.)


4:27 PM UPDATE: Just talked with David DeVilbiss from Global, who confirms the whale has been “respectfully” sent to its final resting place “in about 400 feet of water.” Location not specified, but we’ve noted that showed the Prudhoe Bay off Blake Island most of the day. DeVilbiss adds that a marine biologist was on board and able to get more information about the whale that couldn’t be gathered on the beach – underside markings, for example.

West Seattle whale watching: Spouting off Alki Beach


Thanks to Dja for tweeting that photo from Alki with an unmistakable spout in view – if you’re in the area, keep watch for possible sunset sightings of whale(s). Transient orcas have been in central Puget Sound today, according to Orca Network spotters, so the spout might be from one of them. (Some were in Elliott Bay earlier today – see photos here.)

PHOTOS: Seafair Parade of Ships 2016 sails past West Seattle

[Photo updated 1:19 pm, USS Somerset leading the parade]

FIRST REPORT, 12:47 PM: We’re just west of Duwamish Head, watching the Seafair fleet come into view for today’s Parade of Ships, running a bit later than past years. The ships are listed here; amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD-25) is in the lead, passing Bainbridge, and should be turning eastward toward Elliott Bay shortly. If you’re headed out to watch, consider an umbrella – looks like more storminess is headed this way, according to Sam from Fleurt, whose daughter Keonii took this photo in The Arroyos earlier this hour.

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Ship (and weather, if warranted) updates to come!

1:06 PM: The Somerset is now about to pass us (photo added atop story); behind it, the guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101), and USCGC Active (WMEC-618). At least one helicopter is over Alki to photograph the ships.

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1:29 PM: The Gridley (above; homeported in Everett as of this summer) is passing our spot now; off to the east, the Seattle Fire Department fireboat Leschi is putting on a spray show just ahead of the Somerset.

1:52 PM: Short Parade of Ships this year – looks like the Canadian Navy ship due to visit isn’t in it; last ship, the Active (homeported in Port Angeles), has just gone by, headed toward Duwamish Head and the downtown waterfront.


Several smaller USCG vessels have sailed past us too, escorting the three bigger ships. Again, free tours will be offered Wednesday through Sunday – see the Seafair website for where/when.

ADDED 3:28 PM: Thanks to everyone who shared photos! From Lance Merkin, a closer look at some of the people – and an aircraft – on the Somerset:

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Kyle Asplund caught fireboat Leschi passing Luna/Anchor Park:


And Gary Jones photographed the Somerset, Gridley, and Active from Alki Point:




P.S. The storm never did show up!

‘In case you wondered too’ #2: Low-flying helicopter off Alki


This one, we haven’t solved yet. Lots of texts – a few with photos, including the one above – wondering about this: A low-flying helicopter was off Alki for a while this evening, near a yacht at one point, near an Argosy Cruises boat at another point. Neither the boat nor the helicopter showed on trackers, so we haven’t figured out yet who/what/why – from some past stories, looked to us like a possible photo shoot. Any info, we’d love to hear it, in comments or via e-mail – – thanks!

PHOTOS, VIDEO: Canoes leave Alki for next stop on Paddle to Nisqually

(WSB photos/video unless otherwise credited)

8:28 AM: If you want to watch the tribal canoes’ departure for the next stop on the Paddle to Nisqually journey, get down to Alki fast. The first canoe has just departed, after its skipper called out thanks to the Muckleshoots for hosting them here while they travel to the Nisqually Nation. They’re headed to Tacoma, so you should be able to see them off Beach Drive and points south, too.


8:48 AM: The pace of the departures is picking up.

9:35 AM: Most of the canoes have headed out, and the flotilla of motorized spectator/support boats is departing too. More photos after we get back to HQ.

10:48 AM: Thanks to Harley Broe for this view from Beach Drive:


1:55 PM: And David Hutchinson shares these views from Alki Point:




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Yes, that’s a real buoy in the background of the photo immediately above. The usually-annual canoe journey, as explained on the Paddle to Nisqually site’s “about” page (where you’ll also find the history), is for “… bringing together natives and non-natives with a common goal of providing a drug and alcohol free event and offering pullers a personal journey towards healing and recovery of culture, traditional knowledge and spirituality. … Canoe Journey gatherings are rich in meaning and cultural significance. Canoe families travel great distances as their ancestors did and participating in the journey requires physical and spiritual discipline. At each stop, canoe families follow certain protocols, they ask for permission to come ashore, often in their native languages. At night in longhouses there is gifting, honoring and the sharing of traditional prayers, drumming, songs and dances. Meals, including evening dinners of traditional foods, are provided by the host nations.”

This year’s journey will end in southernmost Puget Sound on Saturday, where tens of thousands of people are expected to welcome the canoe families as they land. One week of ceremonies and celebrations will follow.

VIDEO: Fireboat Leschi’s sunset show off Alki

July 27, 2016 9:17 pm
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 |   Seen at sea | West Seattle news


Thanks for sharing the views of the Seattle Fire Department fireboat Leschi putting on a spray show off Alki Beach during tonight’s sunset. The photo above is from Morgan Herzog (who you probably know from The Beer Junction); below, Irene Stewart texted us this video:

We don’t know exactly what brought out the fireboat but it must have been a grand sight with the Paddle to Nisqually canoes lining the beach nearby. Meantime – we will also likely get a fireboat show next Tuesday afternoon (August 2nd) when the Seafair fleet parades past West Seattle shores.

UPDATE: Canoes at Alki Beach during Paddle to Nisqually 2016

(UPDATED 7:33 PM with Thursday’s departure time)

1:08 PM: That’s the scene at Alki Beach as we write this a few minutes past 1 pm, with canoes continuing to arrive at the Muckleshoot Tribe-hosted stop along the route of the Paddle to Nisqually. As previewed here Monday, up to 100 canoe families are expected from tribes all over the region – they left the Suquamish Tribe-hosted stop on the west side of the Sound this morning, and will be here overnight until heading out tomorrow. Dozens are here already, some already hoisted up and carried onto the sand, some in queue on the waterline.


1:25 PM: The line of canoes continues to stretch further westward. Hundreds of people are on the beach, some from canoes that have already been brought ashore, some from support crews, plus spectators. This is the first time the canoes have come to Alki during the annual journey since 2012.




4:51 PM: More photos added.


We’re heading back to the beach for a late-in-the-day view as well as the latest on tomorrow’s departure plan.

7:33 PM: With the visitors all celebrating with the Muckleshoots tonight, we checked with security watching over the canoes at Alki, regarding tomorrow’s departure time. He said 8 am. They head to Point Defiance in Tacoma tomorrow, the map shows.

West Seattle whales: Humpbacks reported to be passing

July 23, 2016 7:59 pm
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 |   Seen at sea | West Seattle news | Wildlife

Just in from Leslie Dierauf in the 3600 block of Beach Drive:

At least 2 humpback whales are cruising north on the far side of the deepwater channel. Their blows are big and straight in the air. They have small dorsal fins and are displaying their flukes. COOOOOL.

Here’s The Whale Trail‘s quick guide to humpbacks.

West Seattle whales: Orcas in the area


Thanks to Venkat for the photo – he spotted orcas off Colman Pool after 5 pm today; checking the Orca Network Facebook page, we verified that’s a research boat in the photo. A recent comment there had them passing Three Tree Point in Burien just before 6 – but we still have more than two hours of daylight, so if you’re by the water, keep watch, as they might head back this way. Let us know if you see them – 206-293-6302 – thanks!

Seen off West Seattle: San Francisco’s future fireboat

July 17, 2016 4:29 pm
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 |   Seen at sea | West Seattle news


Thanks to Greg for the photo of San Francisco’s future fireboat, “which has been circling (and enjoying a wonderful sunny Sunday afternoon) in Puget Sound, south of the lighthouse for the past few hours.” It’s been in the area a while – the 88′ x 25′ x 14′ “super-pumper” fireboat was built at Vigor on Harbor Island. According to a Reddit member who included a photo from on board earlier today, the fireboat will head south for delivery within the next week. It cost about $12 million, reports the San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco kids were invited to enter a contest to name the new fireboat (so far we haven’t found word of a winner).

P.S. Checking right before publishing this at 4:29 pm, we see it’s still out there, labeled as “Fireboat 3.”

Seafair fleet: What you’ll see sailing past West Seattle

July 14, 2016 11:17 am
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 |   Seen at sea | West Seattle news

The U.S. Navy has announced which ships you’ll see sailing past West Seattle (and along the downtown waterfront) during this year’s Seafair Parade of Ships.

It’s set for Tuesday, August 2nd – the official time is 1 pm, but that’s usually the downtown sail-by, so you’ll be looking for the ships off West Seattle shores closer to noon. The U.S. Navy is sending the amphibious assault ship USS Somerset (LPD 25):

And the guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101), which was here last year (photo below is from our coverage of the 2015 Parade of Ships):

They’ll be joined by a Royal Canadian Navy ship and a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. Free ship tours are planned Wednesday-Sunday:

The ship on Pier 66 will be open for public visitation Wednesday, August 3 – Sunday, August 7 from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. The ship on Pier 90 will be open for public visitation Wednesday, August 3 – Thursday, August 4 from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.; on Friday, August, 5 from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.; and then Sunday, August 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be no ship tour at Pier 90 on Saturday, August 6. Times for tours may vary from day-to-day. More information will be released on exact times for each day as Fleet Week grows closer.

You can watch this page on the Seafair website for details (including the tour rules). On Parade of Ships day, best place to watch is near Duwamish Head, as the ships get a little closer to shore while heading toward the downtown waterfront, but they’re visible from Alki Beach too.

VIDEO: 360 degrees, undersea, with Diver Laura

A new way to see undersea! “Diver Laura” James is shooting with 360-degree video equipment and shares two clips with us. You can benefit from the full-surround perspective by putting your cursor in the video and clicking/dragging it around, to look up, down, all around. Above, she was off Constellation Park with jellyfish; below – in the Alki Pipeline shallows with perch:

If you have any trouble with fully exploring the clips via the embedded versions above, their YouTube pages are here (jellyfish) and here (perch).

West Seattle whales: Orca sightings

Orcas  2016 (3 of 5)
(Photos by Dan Ciske, added 10:30 am)

7:12 AM: Thanks to Laurie for e-mailing to report a sighting of two orcas, southbound off Emma Schmitz Overlook around 6:47 am. This would be the second day of sightings in central Puget Sound – Trileigh tipped us to this Orca Network discussion Monday, but to our knowledge they didn’t turn up right off West Seattle.

Orcas  2016 (5 of 5)

10:30 AM: Thanks to Dan Ciske for sending photos taken about an hour ago from the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry!

12:46 PM: Two recent comments (thank you!) indicate orcas are heading northbound past West Seattle shores.

1:29 PM: Still out there! Just in from Norman Sigler via Twitter:

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