SEEN OFF WEST SEATTLE: Sailboat’s close encounter with submarine

Thanks to Danny McMillin for the photo! A sailboat appears to have gotten a close-up look at this submarine as it passed between West Seattle and Bainbridge Island a few hours ago. doesn’t identify the sub beyond “U.S. Warship” but shows that it is still northbound right now, off Whidbey Island.

22 Replies to "SEEN OFF WEST SEATTLE: Sailboat's close encounter with submarine"

  • Also John October 11, 2021 (2:28 pm)

    I just looked up the law.   ‘It’s illegal to come within 100 yards of a Navy vessel.’

  • Anon_42 October 11, 2021 (2:55 pm)

    It looks like this photo was taken with a long telephoto lens. Thus, the distances in the photo are compressed, and the sailboat wasn’t nearly as close to the submarine as it appears in the photo.

  • Flivver October 11, 2021 (4:29 pm)

    Subs usually have escort boats. Guarantee you the sailboat is NOT as close as the photo indicates.

    • Ronald Reed October 13, 2021 (7:20 am)

      There’s a couple posts of that opinion, anyway you can post the actual distance, like facts, I’m not being hostile I truly want to know how far it was. I think this was a just a ginned up story, was there a press release about it or is everything about this story based on a very unprofessional, grainy, vague photo shot from what could be a mile away.

      • WSB October 13, 2021 (12:18 pm)

        No, there was no “press release.” We often feature readers’ photos of interesting vessels seen off West Seattle, and that’s all this is, an interesting photo – nothing more, nothing less – TR

  • Danny McMillin October 11, 2021 (4:54 pm)

    Indeed there is some compression from my telephoto lens.  But the sailboat is still close enough to cause the machine gun mounted on the conning tower to be pointed in the direction of the boat. Also, there is gunboat between the sub and sailboat.Danny McMillin

    • L October 11, 2021 (6:37 pm)

      You’re right and that’s insanely close.  This is seriously a good way to get shot at or even shot.  I am a professional sailor out on the water nearly every day and I’ve never ever seen a boat that close.They really don’t mess around with sub security.   Boaters need to know the rules out on the water.  Subs also have a different legal separation  distance than other Navy ships.  Not to mention at least to gunboats at all times.

    • Capn Trips October 17, 2021 (5:47 pm)

      “Machine gun mounted on the conning tower”?What are you smoking? No such thing there!

  • drM October 11, 2021 (5:38 pm)

    Something does not add up here. Subs ( of the nuclear variety) always have an escort. And a slow moving sailboat would never be allowed near a submarine. 

    • L October 11, 2021 (7:00 pm)

      The escort is in the photo.  Exactly in front of the sailboat.  Zoom in. 

      • NoraMae Ball Smith October 12, 2021 (11:18 am)

        There is no escort it looks more like 2 subs and another sailboat.. 

        • DSVJ October 15, 2021 (8:15 am)

          Sorry Mrs Smith. You’re incorrect. The pilot boat is clear when you zoom in. Same color as sub and the rest of the ships in Bremerton. It’s a Naval thing.

  • CR October 11, 2021 (6:54 pm)

    The subs have motor boats (aka pilot boats) that escort them through the sound. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see a gray motorboat along the side of the sail boat. That’s one of the pilot boat. These pilot boats zip around and alert nearby vessels to stay out of the way. My guess is the sailboat was too close and that’s why the pilot boat is next to them. 

  • Flivver October 11, 2021 (8:46 pm)

    Might add that due to the speed difference the sailboat may not have had the ability to sufficiently clear the subs path before a close encounter.

  • bill October 11, 2021 (8:48 pm)

    That sailboat’s best speed is what, 6 knots?  It can’t get out of the way of the sub.  The sub is probably darn near invisible from dead ahead. It’s not the same as a container ship you can see from ten miles away. If anything, the escort vessels waited too long to head off the sailboat.

    • mok4315 October 11, 2021 (10:23 pm)

      Which is why people on the water should constantly be checking their AIS (or phone app if not equipped with nav systems). I’ve worked on the water for many years, and sailboats are always the worst at knowing or caring about nav rules. 

      • David October 12, 2021 (6:56 pm)

        Navy vessels rarely broadcast their AIS.  They receive yes, but what we call “run quiet” and do not send

  • Deborah October 11, 2021 (10:32 pm)

    Are these sailboats supposed to be there or is it a restricted part of the water ? If it is , these people should be charged for invading private waters m especially if they are not from Washington. Got to learn .

    • Furr October 12, 2021 (7:20 am)

      Wat? Did you not read the location? No, not in “private waters”

  • Jay October 12, 2021 (8:49 am)

    It’s a telephoto lens, it makes things look closer together. The sailboat is far behind the sub and there is an escort boat in between them. Look at the photo more closely.

  • kebbins October 12, 2021 (10:04 am)

    Got her from the ferry –

  • David Ortland October 12, 2021 (11:09 am)

    I was listening to Seattle traffic channel 14 while getting ready to kayak over to Blake from Alki when the sub went by.  Traffic seemed concerned about it being a nearly invisible hazard, asking which lane it was traveling in. The controller tried to raise the sub, calling it Navy Unit 08.  But for the longest time the sub did not respond. So I guess it was running silent but not very deep.

Sorry, comment time is over.