Followup: See underwater video from ROVs’ morning at Seacrest

August 30, 2014 at 4:54 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

“Diver Laura” James promised video from her morning at Seacrest with two ROVs (and friends) – and she’s delivered. The clip above includes some footage of the unfortunately not-recovering-yet local sea stars, as well as showing how an ROV gets around.

Photos: ‘Diver Laura’ and friends’ Seacrest morning with ROVs

August 28, 2014 at 3:17 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

(Top photo by Laura James; other photos by Rachel Chaimson)
On Wednesday morning, the divers at Seacrest weren’t all human: As previewed here, “Diver Laura” James and friends went in with ROVs, to check on the sick-sea-star situation, among other missions. Laura sent a report and photos:

The day started by picking up the trash can that had been knocked over the night before:

Pretty gross. (Thanks to the kind gentleman who offered me a wet-wipe afterward.) Now on to the ROV’s :) They show up in BIG yellow boxes – seen here with National Geographic Young Explorer Erika Bergman, who is currently working on the OpenExplorer platform, and OpenROV summer intern Christine Spiten from Norway:

The event was well documented by myself and another West Seattle shooter, Micah O’Keiley, and his snazzy camera (he’s helping me do a promo video for Diver Laura and Kids program stuff, for which I am AMAZINGLY grateful).

Video up in the next day or so. They are very cute – this one even has a shark fin!

Then it was time for me to get in the water with the little critters:

They were waiting impatiently:

Good dive! Vis was a bit murky, and the baby mottled stars that were abundant a few weeks ago are now sparse. There is wasting disease ongoing, with arms from moderately-sized mottled stars lying around at regular intervals.

All too soon it was time to pack up and head home:

As noted in Wednesday’s daily preview, Laura is working on her own OpenROV, and promises advance notice of explorations, so you can check it out in person.

From Alki to Bainbridge and back: 2014 Great Cross-Sound Race

August 23, 2014 at 4:56 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

It took 52 minutes and 9 seconds for those four rowers to make the 7-mile round trip between Alki and Bainbridge during Sound Rowers’ Great Cross-Sound Race this morning. Their quad was listed as entry #1, and that’s where they finished. In second at 53:40, Megan Yount and Bruce Rolfe:

Finishing third and fourth, Evan Jacobs (multiple past winner) in 54:10 (right) and Robert Meenk in 54:31:

No immediate rest at race’s end:

Full list of the almost three dozen entrants and their finishing order is here.

Video: Who’s in the water? iPhone ‘microscope’ shows you Puget Sound creatures you’d never see otherwise

August 19, 2014 at 6:38 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

From the ever-creative “Diver Laura” James … a new idea for looking at who and what are in Puget Sound. She says it’s simple as pie to turn an iPhone into a microscope that’ll show you plankton and other micro-organisms in Puget Sound.

And there’s a reason she hopes you’ll look at the videos she’s creating with this rig, even if you don’t try to replicate it yourself:

My goal with these videos is to help show that every drop of our precious Puget Sound is alive, and when we pollute it, the stormwater is not going into just water, but flowing into and poisoning the homes of the foundation of our food web, and a nursery for so many baby critters that it boggles the mind.

See more of the plankton here:

And check out Laura’s YouTube playlist. She says she’s working on a “key” to help plankton viewers know exactly what they’re seeing, too.

WSF side note: About the ferries at Vigor on Harbor Island

August 17, 2014 at 5:46 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

With this weekend’s Washington State Ferries woes – Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth is still running two boats because the un-mothballed M/V Evergreen State remains out of service – some have wondered about the status of ferries in view at Vigor on Harbor Island. The one in the foreground of our photo above is the 130-car M/V Kitsap, a 34-year-old ferry that is at Vigor until late September for $5 million worth of scheduled work, including painting and galley modifications. In the background at right is the M/V Yakima, in for about $310,000 of maintenance scheduled to last another week. The third ferry you might glimpse at Vigor is still being built, the 144-car M/V Samish, expected to go into service next year.

Port seeks to sell cranes at West Seattle’s closed, empty Terminal 5

August 15, 2014 at 2:54 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 33 Comments

(Terminal 5, photographed today from SE Admiral area)
Three weeks after the last cargo ship called at now-closed Port of Seattle Terminal 5 in West Seattle, the resulting stretch of empty space continues to catch attention, and we’re still getting questions about why it’s empty. In short, if you missed previous stories: The port closed it and plans to “modernize” it to handle the huge new ships that are coming on line in the cargo industry, though it has not finalized plans for how to fund the full nine-digit price tag that project will cost.

Today, a new development – the Port Commission will be asked for approval next Tuesday to sell Terminal 5′s six cranes, which it says would have to be replaced anyway. The item on the agenda for next week’s commission meeting includes a memo that also surfaces a timeline for the modernization project, saying, “The objective of this effort is to design and build a facility capable of handling two EEE class vessels by mid-2018.” The cranes that Port management wants to sell were purchased in the 1980s, and appraised as worth up to $3.75 million, according to the memo, which adds, “With the direction to modernize Terminal 5, and as there are no other open Port terminals where the cranes could be utilized, it is desirable to sell the cranes while they are fully functional and have current certifications.” It also warns that the market for used cranes is “slow” and that if they don’t sell within six months, staff will come back to the commission to “obtain authorization to dispose of them in accordance with Port procedures, including paying to have the cranes dismantled and scrapped.”

The commission’s Tuesday meeting is at noon at Port headquarters (2711 Alaskan Way) and includes one other item related in part to modernization – authorization of $1.5 million to cover half the cost of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study on possibly deepening its west and east waterways to accommodate larger ships.

West Seattle scene: Preparing to paddle across the bay to downtown rally

August 11, 2014 at 10:03 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

Thanks to Anne for the photo from Don Armeni Boat Ramp, where canoe paddlers are launching a trip across Elliott Bay to participate later this morning in a rally to show concern about environmental risks from increased oil/coal-carrying train/ship traffic in our region.
(Added 12:57 pm: Tweet with photo of Blue Heron Canoe‘s arrival:)

(back to earlier report) We received this announcement about that rally late last night:

(Today) at 11 am a ‘Protect Our Salish Sea’ rally will begin with a traditional Northwest Coastal canoe landing and kayak flotilla at the beach below the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is a traditional sacred gathering place of the Coast Salish Nations. The rally will include speakers such as Freddy Lane and Laverne Lane of the Lummi Nation, a traditional welcoming and protocol by Ken Workman of the Duwamish Tribe, Mike Evans of the Snohomish Tribe leading a traditional canoe ‘Paddle to Seattle,’ activists Carlo Voli of 350 Seattle, and Bill Moyer of Backbone Campaign. This is a family-friendly event that will include an inter-tribal jam session, a Water Blessing ceremony, and will be immediately followed by a procession to the tracks for a symbolic blockade of the BNSF Railroad at Alaskan and Broad Street in Seattle.

Click to read the rest of West Seattle scene: Preparing to paddle across the bay to downtown rally…

Last voyage of decommissioned USS Constellation, past West Seattle

August 8, 2014 at 3:55 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 14 Comments

(Photo added 9:45 pm, by Gary Jones at Alki Point)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 3:55 PM: It’s been about an hour since the scrapyard-bound USS Constellation was towed from Bremerton.

(US Navy Public Affairs photo)
The aircraft carrier is passing the mouth of Dyes Inlet and in another hour or so should be visible from West Seattle, as it emerges from Rich Passage between Bainbridge and Blake Islands. We’ll be updating as it gets closer; you can track the tow via MarineTraffic.com – a group of tugs is escorting it now, and the oceangoing Corbin Foss is en route to rendezvous with them, preparing for its solo 16,000-mile tow around South America and up to Brownsville, Texas.

4:45 PM: Still a ways to where they’ll be out of Rich Passage and visible from here. It’s somewhat hazy off to the west so it won’t be a really crystal-clear view as it would be if it were a cloudless summer morning – Alki Point and vicinity will likely be the clearest. But the tugs are showing on MarineTraffic.com as having picked up some speed – about 2 knots per hour now. We’ll update when they’re in view (at least via binoculars).

5:40 PM: Getting closer. The tugboats show on MarineTraffic.com as starting to round the point that is just north of Manchester.

6:09 PM: Now in view with binoculars from Emma Schmitz Viewpoint, having just emerged from Rich Passage. At this moment, it’s still pointed south, and has to be pulled to face northbound before it will start sailing toward Alki Point and beyond.

6:49 PM: It’s still in the shadows near Manchester, looking across from here. The Foss blog-format website tracking the journey has a photo looking back this way as the Corbin Foss and “Connie” get acquainted at the start of their 16,000-mile journey. (Click here for a larger version of the photo in Foss’s update.)

7:37 PM: You can see the silhouette without binoculars now, and it appears to be slowly starting to make the turn. At this rate, it’ll likely be a lovely sunset scene somewhere in front of Bainbridge!

8:05 PM: After four hours on Beach Drive, we headed for higher ground. Looks like it will be a great view from west-facing North Admiral (we’re at the famous Seattle/Sunset street-sign mini-viewpoint waiting for it to get into better photographic range).

8:22 PM: Some spectators up here. This viewpoint likely will be good all the way until dusk, since you can see north to West Point from here. Meantime, the Foss website has linked to a photo gallery of the Bremerton departure.

(WSB photo by Patrick Sand)
8:55 PM: Just as it gets dark, the Connie and Corbin Foss are heading out of range.

(Photo with vehicle carrier Auriga Leader passing, by Greg)
9:49 PM: Added three photos, from three photographers. (Thank you!) Corbin Foss and Constellation are expected to arrive at Long Beach for a refueling stop at mid-month; the trip around the tip of South America (as someone pointed out while talking with us during Connie Watch, it’ll be summer down there) and up to Texas is expected to take almost five months.

Followup: USS Constellation’s final voyage to start tomorrow; special Foss website will track the tow

August 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

(US Navy photo: USS Constellation in Elliott Bay during Seafair, 1996)
New information today about the last voyage of the USS Constellation, the aircraft carrier that’s about to be towed away from Bremerton after a decade, and that will pass West Seattle shortly after the start of its 18,000-mile tow to a Texas shipbreaking yard. Foss Maritime – whose ocean tug Corbin Foss is scheduled to tow the “Connie” – just let us know about a special website it’s set up to chronicle the journey; see it here. The trip is now set to start early tomorrow afternoon (Friday, August 8th), according to Foss, which says harbor tugs will bring it from Bremerton, and rendezvous with the Corbin Foss off Blake Island. You’ll be able to see it from West Seattle (primarily Beach Drive/Alki) once it’s out of Rich Passage and northward-bound into Puget Sound. The Constellation is one of the last few non-nuclear carriers to be scrapped; it’s been mothballed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard since it was decommissioned in 2003. It (and the Corbin Foss) will stop at Long Beach, California – last U.S. port – around the 16th.

West Seattle wildlife: Whale sighting; coyote report; raccoons…

August 7, 2014 at 2:02 am | In Coyotes, Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 30 Comments

It’s a wild place we live in … three reader reports to share:

WHALE WATCHING: Heard about the humpbacks in the area this past week or so? Colleen saw one and shared the photo:

A little late since this was Saturday night…..While boating with friends from West Seattle to Bainbridge Saturday evening around 5:15, we spotted a whale … We were so excited, our pictures are not that good. … It was awesome and unbelievable to be so close (our friends turned off their Bayliner’s engine as we watched the whale).

COYOTE REPORT: From Paul in North Admiral:

Just thought I’d pass on news of a coyote sighting in front of my house (Monday) morning on 42nd Ave between Seattle and Atlantic Streets in North Admiral. 4:30 am, I was leaving to go fishing, and a neighbor was walking his dog. We all must have come upon the coyote at the same time, and it took off running. Healthy looking adult. I’ve seen one here before, but it’s been several years.

RACCOONS: From Sean in Gatewood:

Spotted this mom and four youngsters at 8:30 (Monday) morning in my backyard. Very cute, but I’d prefer they dig holes elsewhere.

The state has advice on dealing with raccoons and coyotes – the former, here; the latter, here. (And lots of other species too – see the sidebar on either of those pages for the links.)

Why two cruise ships departed Seattle today & then came back

August 3, 2014 at 8:04 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

8:04 PM: Some questions came in this evening about two cruise ships that turned around and came back after leaving Seattle this afternoon. The Grand Princess, according to Princess Cruises via Twitter, returned for a “technical issue” but the cruise line hopes it will be able to leave tonight. MarineTraffic.com shows it still at Pier 91 in Magnolia as of this writing. The Norwegian Pearl, which had spent the day at Pier 66 downtown, had to deal with a medical emergency, according to this tweet by KIRO, and is already back out to sea, heading through north Puget Sound.

10:23 PM: The Grand Princess is under way again – MarineTraffic.com shows it off Shilshole, northbound.

Update: USS Constellation now reported to be leaving Thursday – on its decommissioning anniversary

August 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

(US Navy photo of USS Constellation decommissioning ceremony, 8/7/2003)
Thanks to JanS for spotting an update this weekend on the expected departure date for the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Constellation: The Kitsap Sun reports it now looks like Thursday, postponed from last Thursday, which in turn was later than a previously announced date. The KS story says this will be the biggest shipbreaking job ever for a yard in Brownsville, Texas, to which a tug from Seattle’s Foss Maritime will tow the “Connie” via a route all the way around the southernmost tip of South America, since it’s too big to fit through the Panama Canal. We’re watching this because it will be visible from West Seattle once it leaves Rich Passage and heads north into the open Sound. It’s been mothballed in Bremerton for more than a decade.

P.S. We found this webpage dedicated to “the Constellation’s final journey,” which in turn points to this San Diego report from last year with memories of Constellation veterans. And something else we discovered while researching to add to this – Thursday will be the 11th anniversary of the carrier’s decommissioning ceremony in San Diego.

TUESDAY NOTE: Kitsap Sun now reports it’s pushed back to a 5 pm departure Friday.

Photos/video: Seafair Parade of Ships/Flight off West Seattle

July 30, 2014 at 1:05 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 14 Comments

(UPDATED Wednesday evening with more photos plus clip from the aircraft “parade”)

(Updated video: 1:35 pm)
1:05 PM: We’re on Duwamish Head, where the Seafair Parade of Ships – led by the USS Essex, an amphibious-assault ship you might mistake for an aircraft carrier, is about to come into view after passing Alki. The ships will sail past here on their way to the downtown waterfront, which also will get a series of flyovers. Here again (from last night’s preview) is what you’re looking at/for, on the sea and in the sky – see the PDF here, or embedded below via Scribd:

Updates and photos to come!

(USS Essex, courtesy of Greg)
1:42 PM: Behind the USS Essex came the USS Chancellorsville, USS Howard, Coast Guard Cutter Mellon, and now, from Canada, HMCS Brandon.

(USS Chancellorsville, from Lynn Hall)

(USS Howard with fireboat Leschi, from Mark McAndrews)

(USCGC Mellon, courtesy of Greg)

(Chancellorsville and Howard, by Gary Jones)
1:54 PM: While the Parade of Ships has passed West Seattle – and the Essex is Magnolia-bound – the Parade of Flight is under way, with aircraft passing the downtown waterfront, fairly low, flying north and then turning west (added: video of two of them, passing over the entire ship parade):

2:15 PM: Show’s about over.

The Essex is docking over at Smith Cove. Info on tours over the next four days (all the Parade of Ships visitors) is in the brochure embedded above, if you’re interested in. We’re headed back to HQ to add photos and video to this.

Seafair Parade of Ships/Flight on Wednesday: What to watch for

July 29, 2014 at 9:58 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | Comments Off

Thanks to Leslie Allen for that photo of the Seattle fireboat Leschi off Alki during tonight’s sunset. Leschi is scheduled to be out again during the Seafair Parade of Ships tomorrow afternoon, which kicks off Fleet Week, including ship tours on the downtown waterfront. Details are in the official guide (see the PDF here, or embedded below via Scribd):

Still not sure what you’ll be seeing Wednesday afternoon? Check some of our previous years’ coverage – last Parade of Ships, in 2012, we were on board the USS Bunker Hill, so our perspective was from the middle of it all (thanks to community-contributed photos, though, we had views from the shore, too). Year before that, 2011, we covered it from Duwamish Head.

Again this year, the official time is 1:45 pm, but that’s calculated for downtown-waterfront viewing, so, based on those previous two years, we’d expect to see something from Alki around 1 pm. We’ll be out watching much sooner, of course, and will give heads-up, especially on WSB Twitter, WSB Facebook, and WSB Instagram, once ships are in view. And thanks in advance for any photo(s) you care to share!

ADDED: Navy sighting on Alki tonight, courtesy of Elain:

If you watch the Parade of Ships with binoculars, look for the sailors out on deck as they approach downtown. Meantime, you will also see one of the Blue Angels jets on Wednesday, flying with three “influencers” and one media rep, one at a time, between 11 am and 5 pm. They are Dennis Fraser, Civil Air Patrol squad commander (and a Marine Corps veteran); former Seahawk Marcus Trufant, Seafair’s current King Neptune; Sounders FC goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann; and Channel 7 anchor Michelle Millman.

Noticing unusual state ferry activity across the Sound? M/V Tacoma stalls, M/V Sealth tows

July 29, 2014 at 1:19 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 14 Comments

1:19 PM: Water-watchers know the regular Bainbridge and Bremerton Washington State Ferries routes by heart, so it’s not hard to see when something digresses from the usual pattern. Right now, M/V Sealth has diverted from the Bremerton route to go check out trouble reported with M/V Tacoma, which is reported to be stalled by Bainbridge Island. You can track both via WSF’s VesselWatch.

1:26 PM: Update via Kitsap Sun reporter Josh Farley on Twitter:


The person whose photos he has re-tweeted is Van Badzik, who also tweeted this:


That’s West Seattle in the backdrop, east of where the ferry-towing is happening alongside Bainbridge.

1:39 PM: As noted in comments, and also now reported by the Kitsap Sun, the tug Thea Foss is headed over to help.

2:46 PM: The Tacoma is en route to Bainbridge to offload. WSF says the Bainbridge/Seattle run is one boat only TFN.

Bright as a star, named for an astronaut: What those bright lights across Puget Sound from West Seattle turned out to be

July 28, 2014 at 3:47 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 7 Comments

(USNS John Glenn last night, WSB photo at twilight, from a distance)
ORIGINAL MONDAY REPORT: For the past few weeks, people with west-facing views from West Seattle have been noticing a new and VERY bright light from the Manchester vicinity (map). The WSB Forums even had a thread going for a while, and that led to the theory that the lights were coming from, or related to, a certain ship that’s been at the Manchester Naval Fuel Depot about that long, and finally confirmed it last night by taking a ride on the Seattle-Bremerton state ferry. The ship is the USNS John Glenn, a mobile landing platform that was just dedicated a few months ago. Here’s a US Navy file photo:

We observed the lights on the port (left) side of its superstructure, rising. Today, a spokesperson for Manchester told WSB earlier today that lighting is required when fuel/fluid operations are under way at night. What we’re still trying to find out is – if this is even available as public information – how long the USNS John Glenn, which apparently does not yet have a homeport, will be there. But since we’re still getting inquiries about this, we didn’t want to wait any longer to share the answer of WHAT the lights are.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The John Glenn headed out this morning and MarineTraffic.com now shows it almost to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, heading west.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: The JG is back at Manchester, bright lights and all, tonight. (Photo above, taken this afternoon by Gary Jones.)

LATE SUNDAY NIGHT: The John Glenn left Manchester at noon today and did NOT come back – we discovered this after noticing the westward view devoid of the bright lights. As of midnight, it was out of the Strait of JdF and heading south past the Washington seacoast.

More Seafair air-and-sea details: Blue Angels in Seattle tomorrow, Parade of Ships (and aircraft) Wednesday

July 27, 2014 at 7:44 pm | In Blue Angels, Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 14 Comments

Earlier today, we mentioned military aircraft sightings linked to Marine Week, which is part of Seafair this year. But the big show is yet to come – the return of the Blue Angels. Love them or hate them, you might want to know when they’re coming in, in addition to when they’re practicing and performing. So we’ve just confirmed that six Blue Angels arrive at Boeing Field tomorrow (Monday) by 1 pm. (One arrived unannounced today – see Twitter photo above.) A downtown flyby is expected around 12:30 pm. Wednesday, #7 goes up for demonstration flights with one “influencer” and one media person. Then Thursday (9:45-noon and 1:15-2:40 I-90 bridge closures) and Friday are practices, Saturday-Sunday are the official shows (12:15 pm-2:40 pm I-90 closures the latter 3 days). More as the week goes on. Also:

PARADE OF SHIPS/FLIGHT: We’ve already mentioned this feature returns this year too, and the ships will be visible from West Seattle shores on Wednesday afternoon – you might glimpse the aircraft from here too, though in the past we’ve noticed the flybys were closer to downtown. Here’s the list of participating vessels and aircraft expected along the downtown waterfront around 1:45 (so, obviously, passing West Seattle earlier):

Parade of Ships
USS Essex
USS Chancellorsville
USS Howard
CGC Mellon
HMCS Edmonton
HMCS Brandon

Parade of Flight
MV-22B
AH-1Z
UH-1Y
CH-53E
CH-46E
Coast Guard Search & Rescue Demonstration – MH-54D

Update: Decommissioned USS Constellation to pass West Seattle next week soon

July 24, 2014 at 1:24 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 11 Comments

(US Navy photo: USS Constellation in Elliott Bay during Seafair, 1996)
Advance notice for everyone who is interested in what passes our shores: The decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Constellation is scheduled to be towed from Bremerton one week from today (Thursday, July 31st), which means you’ll be able to see it – at a distance – from Alki Point southward. Its eventual destination will be Brownsville, Texas, where it will be broken up. It’s been mothballed in Bremerton for almost a decade, after being decommissioned in 2003 and then towed here from San Diego, following 42 years in service. A time for its departure hasn’t been announced yet, but we’ll be watching in the days ahead.

SIDE NOTE: One day before the Constellation’s move, active Navy ships participating in the Seafair Fleet will be visible from even more of the West Seattle shore. Here’s our recent preview of the July 30th Parade of Ships.

ADDED: Just noticed that the Kitsap Sun now reports this isn’t likely to happen until sometime the week of August 4th.

Terminal 5′s last cargo-ship call for now, after half a century

July 23, 2014 at 4:32 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle businesses, West Seattle news | 23 Comments

Moored on this murky day at the Port of Seattle‘s Terminal 5 in West Seattle, the Westwood Olympia is the last ship scheduled for a T-5 call TFN. After 50 years as a cargo terminal, T-5 will be idle once this ship departs. We reported last month on the port’s plan to close T-5 while spending $5 million planning a modernization project, so that it can handle new mega-sized ships – but there’s no plan yet for where the port will get the up to one-quarter-billion dollars the project will cost. Port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB that “during the multi-year design and permitting phase of Terminal 5 Modernization, we will be working to attract interim maritime uses to this industrial facility.” Meantime, while other shipping lines that used it are moving to other Seattle terminals, Westwood ships are going back to Tacoma after 31 years, with its first call there scheduled for one week from today.

ADDED FRIDAY: For the record, here’s a Port memo about some of the terms related to the T-5 shutdown, as Eagle Marine Service moves on to sublease space on Harbor Island.

Here are the U.S. Navy ships that’ll parade past West Seattle during Seafair Fleet Week

July 3, 2014 at 3:17 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 11 Comments

(2011 US Navy photo of USS Essex)
The Blue Angels aren’t all that the U.S. Navy is sending back to Seafair this summer, after a year away because of federal budget travails. The Seafair Fleet Parade of Ships is back too – with the ships planning to sail past West Seattle shores on their way around Elliott Bay starting around 10 am July 30th. We just received the announcement of which ships will participate – the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), and guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83). All three are homeported in San Diego; they’ll also be open for public tours July 31-August 3. The Parade of Ships will include U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian participation, too – more as it gets closer.

P.S. Last amphibious-assault ship to participate in the Seafair Parade of Ships was the USS Bonhomme Richard in 2011 – here’s our coverage from that year.

Beached-buoy followup: King County trying to solve the mystery

June 30, 2014 at 6:49 pm | In Environment, Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

That photo shared by Lura last night showed the retrieval of a King County water-quality-monitoring buoy from its surprise spot on the Beach Drive shore, less than a year after it was put into place off Lincoln Park. Following up on what we reported Sunday, here’s what the county says today:

King County Environmental Laboratory employees are looking into how a water-quality- data-collection buoy came loose from its mooring before washing ashore along West Seattle on June 29.

The buoy and its host of environmental sensors had been in place off Point Williams since July 2013 and automatically transmitted a wealth of important data about environmental conditions. King County employees were notified early in the morning of June 29 that the buoy was ashore along the 5400 block of Beach Drive SW, south of Me-Kwa-Mooks Park.

Later that day, laboratory employees successfully refloated the buoy and towed it to the Elliott Bay Marina while arrangements are made to move it to the County’s environmental laboratory in Queen Anne for refitting.

While the buoy itself appears unscathed by its unexpected journey, a sensor that detects and transmits data on water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity and depth did not fare as well and was damaged.

Exactly how the buoy came loose from its mooring remains a mystery. The buoy was secured off Point Williams by nearly 1,200 pounds of weight, including two railroad wheels and a heavy gage steel chain that was attached to the buoy by a shackle mechanism.

Environmental laboratory workers will try to determine what part of the mooring set-up broke and how it can be repaired so that the buoy can be placed back at Point Williams.

Underwater video: State of the sea stars near Seacrest

June 29, 2014 at 10:11 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 2 Comments

Sea Star Survey 6/26/2014 from Laura James on Vimeo.

From “Diver Laura” James, that’s the latest underwater look at the state of sea stars (aka “starfish”) at Cove 2 near Seacrest. Earlier this week, we featured video from a CCTV report on the sea-star dieoff, with Laura among the interviewees, in her role as a “citizen scientist.” The newest report was published last night on SeattleTimes.com (WSB partner), with a West Seattle focus, though our area is far from alone in experiencing the epidemic. Meantime, Laura summarizes what she observed in the video (from a dive on Thursday) as:

I’d gotten reports of baby stars showing up so figured it was time to go take a peek. It is really only one species that is showing what is hopefully signs of recovery (they still have to make it to ‘large’ size before it counts) the Evasterias or “mottled star”. Only a few pisaster (the purple ones) and zero pycnopodia (sunflower stars).

A reminder – if you spot sea stars on the beach or in the water, your observations can help too: sickstarfish.com.

Video: Newest close-up look at the ‘sick starfish’ epidemic

June 24, 2014 at 11:25 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 5 Comments

Scientists still haven’t figured out what is causing the mass die-off of sea stars (aka “starfish,” though they’re not fish) in our waters and many other places along the Pacific Coast. The clip above, shared by West Seattle’s “Diver Laura” James, is the latest in-depth look at the crisis. Laura (and her dad!) are interviewed as part of the report, which was produced for China’s English-language network CCTV (you also can view it on the CCTV website here).

Meantime, as noted here earlier this month, your observations are important if you see starfish, living or dead – republishing what Laura told us during the recent low-low-low tides: “There’s a variety of ways to share the information – optimally through the surveys linked here. If people don’t have time to fill out a form if they could just use #sickstarfish [social-media hashtag] or manual entry on www.sickstarfish.com or even just e-mail me at ljjames@mac.com, it would be a massive help.” She is helping, as you’ll see in the CCTV story, as a “citizen scientist.”

Upgrading Terminal 5: Port Commission approves $5 million first step

June 3, 2014 at 3:30 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 10 Comments

The Port of Seattle‘s westernmost cargo terminal is one step closer to a possible quarter-billion-dollar modernization project. The first step toward upgrading half-century-old Terminal 5 in West Seattle was taken by the Port Commission at its meeting this afternoon – authorizing $4.7 million to be spent on planning, designing, reviewing, and almost everything short of building the project. As laid out in this slide deck prepared for the commission meeting (source of the image above), key elements of the proposal include:

• Crane Rails
• Fender System
• Structural Rehabilitation
• Power Supply
• Berth Deepening

Ships just keep getting bigger, the port points out, and most of its West Coast competitors (not to mention the East Coast) have upgrade projects under way to handle the changes. “If we don’t stay competitive, we go out of business,” observed commissioner John Creighton at today’s meeting. Though construction is not likely to start for two years, Terminal 5 will be closed starting this summer, with its cargo operations (via Eagle) moving east to Terminal 18, as reported by KING 5 last week and explained in a Port announcement. Another major point, included in this memo prepared for today’s meeting: The port has not figured out where the $180 million to $250 million for the full project would come from. But with today’s vote, design and planning begins.

P.S. We’ll be following up on a few side points of this – including what the almost-immediate closure of Terminal 5 means for local truck traffic.

Video: See what’s in the sea off West Seattle’s shores

May 26, 2014 at 10:35 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 17 Comments

Puget Sound in the Spring… from Laura James on Vimeo.

On this holiday morning, take a peek beneath the surface of Puget Sound, just off West Seattle, in this video shared by “Diver Laura” James (thanks!). Unlike some underwater videos, this one identifies most of what/who you’ll see – unobtrusively; if you want to find out more about any individual creature, you then can look it up via a site like this.

P.S. Laura says they wouldn’t have been able to do this if the noctiluca bloom hadn’t begun to let up (that’s the orangish-red water that seems to show up every year – here’s the photo we published a week ago).

West Seattle scene: Former ferry Annabelle, on Elliott Bay

May 24, 2014 at 11:52 am | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

Thanks to Trina for the photo of the Annabelle, which she reported seeing near Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor). An info search reminds us that we’ve shown the Tacoma-based former Herron Island ferry here before, in 2010, at which time commenters surfaced lots of info about both its history and its rebirth as a floating home.

SIDE NOTE FOR SEA-WATCHERS: Checking the Coast Guard’s latest Local Notice for Mariners, looks like west-facing water watchers will see a yacht race one week from today – the annual Blake Island Race (see the course map on page 23, here) on May 31st.

No, the ferry’s not in trouble. It’s the new M/V Tokitae.

May 21, 2014 at 6:45 pm | In Seen at sea, West Seattle news | 7 Comments

(Added: Photo of Tokitae this evening, courtesy JayDee in Upper Alki)
We’ve received some questions about a ferry that seemed stalled in the water off Alki Point earlier this hour. No, it’s not in trouble. We checked via MarineTraffic.com; it’s the new Washington State Ferries vessel M/V Tokitae, built at Vigor on Harbor Island and scheduled to go into service next month.

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