West Seattle, Washington
Thanks to Tom Stoner for the photo. In the foreground, escorted by a tug, is Washington State Ferries‘ M/V Cathlamet, the ferry that had a scare Saturday afternoon (WSB coverage here) when a smoky mechanical problem hit while it was between Vashon and Fauntleroy. It’s now at WSF’s Bainbridge Island maintenance site, Eagle Harbor. WSF hasn’t yet announced how long it’ll be out of service; two boats are on the Triangle Route today as has been standard lately, but a third boat – M/V Issaquah – is now tied up at Vashon. In the background of the photo is Silversea Cruises’ Silver Muse, which spent a while anchored off Manchester recently, then took off and sailed up Puget Sound, into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and off the Washington coast for a while before returning. Its first official cruise is scheduled to leave Seattle this Thursday (July 29th) for a 10-day Alaska cruise.
12:23 PM: If you were anywhere near Alki Point around quarter till 11 this morning, you might have heard cheering. It was for Melissa Kegler, the marathon swimmer who’s attempting to become the first to do a “double lap of the Amy Hiland Swim” right now. That means she’s swimming roundtrip between Bremerton and Alki, The rules permitted her to get out of the water for a few minutes at the halfway mark.
A small group of supporters including fellow members of the Notorious Alki Swimmers were there to cheer her on. The Amy Hiland Swim, named for the first person known to complete it (in 1959), is 10.4 miles – so Kegler is aiming for almost 21 miles of swimming today; she started at 6:17 am. The Northwest Open Water Swimming Association tells us she’s “an accomplished marathon swimmer who has completed the ‘Triple Crown’ of marathon swims: the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, and around Manhattan Island. She’s a regular at Alki Beach and has been training at Alki since 2014.” Today’s water temperature is in the mid-50s.
You can track Kegler’s progress here. This is the first of two big swims between Bremerton and Alki this weekend; as we reported Friday, six swimmers over 60 will swim the route as a relay tomorrow.
ADDED SATURDAY NIGHT: NOWSA reports Kegler finished the 20.8-mile swim in 10:35:13.
5:40 PM: Just got a tip that a Bremerton-bound aircraft carrier is coming into view. The Kitsap Sun reports it’s the USS Theodore Roosevelt. More to come – we’re headed downhill to see.
6:21 PM: The carrier’s turning into Rich Passage.
7:02 PM: Adding a photo, as seen from Constellation Park. The Sun’s Josh Farley reports the carrier has shifted homeports from San Diego to Bremerton for an extensive overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
An unusual sight off Seacrest this morning. The photo and report are from Catie:
A floatplane touched down in Elliott Bay a little after 9 am today. Pulled into the rocks at Seacrest Cove (by the pier closest to Salty’s). The pilot jumped out and checked on the plane, then hopped back in and took off.
Floatplane – more formally, seaplane – takeoffs/landings are a much-more common sight on Lake Union, north of downtown.
Seattle’s been seemingly awash in cruise ships for days now, so you might be surprised to hear that the official Seattle-to-Alaska season starts today. Around 5 pm, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to leave the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal in Magnolia, and that’ll be this year’s first boatload of paying passengers (previous voyages have been “test cruises,” explained here). To mark the occasion, the Port of Seattle invited the media to a dockside briefing this morning. It included a ceremonial moment – the ship’s Captain Stig Nilsen presenting port executive director Steve Metruck with a plaque and a model of the ship.
Metruck declared that cruising is returning with improvements. Ships have implemented stringent COVID protocols, for one. But after our previous mentions generated reader discussion about environmental concerns, we asked Metruck what’s changed along those lines, He mentioned that the terminal at Smith Cove is equipped with shore power, and that it’s in the works for Pier 66 downtown. We learned from another port official, however, that this particular ship is not shore-power-ready, so it’s not plugged in, though the other ship currently berthed at Smith Cove, Majestic Princess, is. Maritime Managing Director Stephanie Jones Stebbins also told us that shore power capability for Pier 66 is scheduled to be ready for the 2023 cruise season – the problem until now, she said, is that they would have had to run a line from the Denny substation about a mile east, requiring a lot of road demolition, but instead, they came up with a way to route it via an underwater cable from Pier 46 to the south.
The emission situation, said Jones Stebbins, is not only a matter of plugged in vs. unplugged. She said exhaust scrubbing – explained here – is being used. Environmental advocates, however, say that just swaps air pollution for water pollution; Jones Stebbins says ships cannot discharge the scrubber water while berthed here. The state has a Memorandum of Understanding with the cruise industry on multiple environmental issues.
P.S. After today, the next official cruise departure is on Friday; here’s this year’s schedule.
4:25 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul and Eric Shalit for the tips – another elephant seal is in view off West Seattle. Eric saw it off Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (4500 block Beach Drive) around 1 pm; Kersti just texted that it’s headed slowly southbound, still in that area. It’s an adult male Northern Elephant Seal – the Seal Sitters update we published recently talks about their appearance in local waters.
ADDED 7:41 PM: The photo and update are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Seal Sitters was contacted about this animal just before noon today. Volunteers were at Emma Schmitz Overlook for a period of time, early this afternoon, monitoring this seal just in case it came ashore. We believe this is probably the same animal that was hanging out in Puget Sound further to the south earlier in June. If you spot it in our area, please call the Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325.
9:21 AM: An unusual sight right now – cruise ships at anchor. Along with Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas in Elliott Bay, which we photographed last night, Silversea’s Silver Muse is anchored off Manchester, and that led to some reader emails this morning. Cruise ships are still in their testing phase before resuming paid-passenger cruises starting next week, and right now the regular berths in Seattle are already taken, so – as happens with cargo ships too – some are anchored in Coast Guard-administered spots. As we reported earlier this month, this year’s schedule has the first “revenue cruise” due in Monday.
9:52 AM: Thanks to Vlad Oustimovitch for sending this perspective of the Silver Muse off Manchester:
Along with the two at anchor, the three docked today are Nieuw Amsterdam and Majestic Princess at Pier 91, and Norwegian Encore at Pier 66.
Thanks to Lynn Hall for that early-morning photo of the Silver Muse arriving in Seattle. It’s the latest of several ships to visit before the abbreviated season officially begins in two weeks. Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB, “Cruise vessels from all seven of our major brands will be sailing this year, with eight vessels (Royal Caribbean will have two), for a total of 83 cruises to Alaska. Ships will be arriving in the next couple of weeks, with the first revenue cruise on July 19.” (This port news release explains what’s happening before the “revenue cruises.”) Here’s the schedule – note that it goes well into October, (corrected) a busier month than pre-pandemic Octobers. The ship that arrived today is a Silversea Cruises luxury liner scheduled to be back here July 29th for a 10-day Alaska cruise.
10:28 AM: Thanks for the photos and tips! The state ferry M/V Salish is drawing some attention right now by sailing in an unusual pattern off Alki (and points south). According to Washington State Ferries, the Salish is currently out of service for repairs, which has taken the Seattle-Bremerton route down to one boat. The Kitsap Sun reported the Salish has been out of service since Saturday afternoon because of an “engine issue.” As noted during WSF’s recent spring community meeting (WSB coverage here), breakdowns are especially bad news right now because it’s the peak season but the system already has some vessels out for longterm repair work.
11:11 AM: Joel sent that view of the Salish close-in, looking toward Alki Point, plus a screengrab from a tracker showing the attention-getting route it’s been sailing.
12:13 PM: And an aerial view from Sharon, who said it looked like Salish was doing “donuts”:
Thanks for the photo and tip! Shown above is the US Navy littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10), on its way to Vigor Shipyard on Harbor Island. The ship, whose namesake was serving in the U.S. House of Representatives when she survived being shot in 2011, is the first of two ships of this class that will undergo work at the shipyard this year as part of a ~$110 million contract. This announcement from Vigor says about 165 workers will handle a variety of projects including replacement of flight-deck support stanchions, painting the underwater hull, and overhauling jet drives and the main propulsion engines. The littoral combat ship USS Omaha is due at Vigor in September.
10:27 AM: First look at the four big new cranes on their way to Terminal 5 in West Seattle:
Thanks to Mike York for sending us that photo from north of Kingston. The Zhen Hua 36 is currently at 10 knots so it’s probably still an hour-plus away from coming into view off West Seattle. We’ll be updating.
11:07 AM: Lynn Hall on Duwamish Head says they’re in view.
11:24 AM: Now entering Elliott Bay. Thanks to Carolyn Newman for first word on that, and David Hutchinson for this photo as the heavy-lift ship rounded West Point on the northwest edge of the bay:
11:40 AM: The 316-foot-tall cranes are now in view from Don Armeni Boat Ramp, a park which will afford a long stretch of viewing as they approach Terminal 5.
12:14 PM: Now headed toward the docks. Next good waterfront vantage point – Jack Block Park.
12:45 PM: The ship has now arrived at T-5. At the Jack Block Park overlook, watching the final leg of the journey, we found a watch party of sorts – longshore workers for whom the T-5 project means new work. The terminal has not been in regular cargo service since 2014.
P.S. More photos later, and we’ll also have a followup tomorrow, when port officials and others are scheduled to have a media briefing.
Thanks to Duncan Dorris for the photos – just before sunset, a submarine was in view off west-facing West Seattle, northbound in Puget Sound.
A cooling sight at the end of a very warm day (86 was the official high, 17 degrees above “normal” for this date) – the fireboat Leschi off Alki. Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photo above, Ethan Frank for the photo below:
P.S. SFD plans to livestream from aboard the Leschi during Fire Day this Saturday.
Thanks to James Tilley for the photo. Seen off West Seattle on Thursday, that’s the former USCGC John Midgett, now in the service of the Vietnam Coast Guard. The photo helped solve a mystery we couldn’t solve two months ago, Lynn Hall photographed it before the repainting was complete:
At the time, we weren’t able to dig up the backstory (though the ship was flying the flag of Vietnam by then). The transfer has been in the works for at least a year and a half, according to this report, which says it’s the second US Coast Guard cutter given to Vietnam. This report says some of the work on the 378-foot cutter was done at Lake Union Drydock Company. The transfer was via the Foreign Military Financing program, this report notes. As USCGC John Midgett, the 1971-built ship was homeported in Seattle.
This morning we mentioned the big turnout on Elliott Bay and at Don Armeni Boat Ramp for the three-hour spot-shrimp season. Puget Sound just west of Elliott Bay was open too – for one extra hour, until 1 pm – and as Dan Ciske‘s photo shows, some got an up-close look at a submarine headed for Bremerton.
9:13 AM: Thanks to the commenter who asked about all the boats on Elliott Bay this morning. It’s the fishing event that draws a crowd to Don Armeni Boat Ramp every year – the short recreational season for spot shrimp. Fishing for these shrimp is allowed for just three hours today in Elliott Bay – 9 am to noon – with an 80-shrimp limit.
10:35 AM: Thanks to Stewart L. for the photos!
Two reports of whale sightings today – maybe you’ve had a sighting too? Around noon, Philip reported a whale (“not an orca”) off Three Tree Point headed north. About two hours later, Susan saw this: “I glimpsed the back half of an orca as it rolled northward, not far from the Fauntleroy ferry slip. I waited for it to resurface north of the dock… and waited… saw a blow, but its source didn’t appear to be the B&W of an orca. It surfaced again, and definitely was something other than an orca or humpback. What happened to the orca?” Humpbacks and grays are in regional waters now too; if you see a marine mammal you can’t identify, try a species guide like this one offered by The Whale Trail.
11:59 AM: Up for Friday whale-watching? Transient orcas are southbound, north of Alki but visible from there, reports Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch. Let us know if you see them!
2:41 PM: Thanks to Brandy for emailing to say they’re now in view off Lincoln Park’s south shore, lingering.
3:56 PM: Added, two photos above by Rick Rasmussen. Also see Kersti’s images in the comment section.
ADDED 10:57 PM: Trileigh Tucker has sent photos too – here are three:
(Thanks again to everyone who has shared photos and tips!)
If you want to take advantage of the end of our sunny stretch by doing some whale-watching, here’s an early alert that you might be able to see orcas today. That’s according to Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch, who says transient killer whales are southbound off Fay Bainbridge Park (map), headed this way. Let us know if you see them!
11 AM: Kersti says they’ve changed direction.
Thanks to the readers who sent photos of M/V Tacoma this afternoon, off west-facing West Seattle, further south than it would usually sail; the photo above is from Greg. We asked Washington State Ferries spokesperson Ian Sterling about its status; he explained, “It was in for its annual USCG inspection and maintenance.” Once it passed sea trials, it returned to its usual spot on the Seattle/Bainbridge Island run.