West Seattle, Washington
12:12 PM: Thanks to Danny McMillin for the photo of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as it headed out this morning. The tracker suggests it’s bound for San Diego. One month ago, it returned home to Bremerton after what the Navy said was its Carrier Strike Group’s final training pre-deployment.
8:01 PM: The Kitsap Sun‘s report on Nimitz’s departure confirms this is indeed the long-anticipated deployment, so we won’t see it heading back this way for months.
Whether seated on shoulders or resting against railings, Christmas Ship fans were bunched up along the Don Armeni Boat Ramp shore tonight for the first 2022 stop of the Argosy Cruises tradition. The ship – known the rest of the year as Spirit of Seattle – stopped off the West Seattle park to serenade the waiting crowd.
The Dickens Carolers were on board to sing 20 minutes of Christmas classics, bite-size, so they packed in plenty, starting, appropriately, with “I Saw Three Ships and moved on to other favorites including “Winter Wonderland” (above) and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”:
The Christmas Ship will be back in West Seattle twice more – both tomorrow night (Saturday, November 26), 5:35 pm by Salty’s on Alki (1936 Harbor SW; WSB sponsor), 8:35 pm at Alki Beach Park (when Seattle Parks will host the stop, with a bonfire if weather permits), both also featuring The Dickens Carolers.
Then the Christmas Ship is off to many other areas on Puget Sound and local lakes for a busy four-week season – you can see the schedule here (and book a ride on the Christmas Ship or one of its “follow boats”).
The so-called “king tides” of fall/winter make their first appearance starting on Thanksgiving Day. The morning high tide hits 12 feet at 5:36 am that day, and keeps climbing from there – 12.4 feet at 6:26 am Friday, November 25 and peaking at 12.6 feet at 7:17 am Saturday, November 26, with the highest high tide staying at 12 feet or above for the rest of the month and on to December 3rd. High tides reach 12 feet and over again December 8-12, with the highest tides of December peaking during Christmas/Hanukkah, 13 feet on December 25-26. Winter’s highest high tides are about a month after that, 13.1 feet on January 24-25. The high tides themselves aren’t always problematic unless weather conditions compound them, as was the case in early January this year (photo above).
From a distance, if you saw those dark protrusions offshore, you might have wondered if they were orcas. If you watched for a while and noticed they didn’t seem to be moving, you might fear something worse. Someone in fact called Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network on Friday afternoon, worried what they were seeing was a dead whale. Nope – “a small group of California Sea Lions thermoregulating,” explains David Hutchinson of SSMMSN. Here’s a closer look:
We’ve reported on this before – almost every winter – the behavior is also known as “sailing.” Nothing to worry about. But if you do see a marine mammal on the beach – or appearing to be in distress offshore – the Seal Sitters hotline is 206-905-7325 (905-SEAL).
No photo so far but thanks for the tips – the USS Nimitz passed West Seattle before sunset, heading back to Bremerton. The aircraft carrier has been gone from its homeport for a month and a half.
12:37 PM: Thanks to Brooke for sending the photo. Police have been dealing with that semi-submerged boat at Don Armeni Boat Ramp. We’re headed over to find out about the circumstances.
1:10 PM: Police told us that someone left the boat tied up. They don’t know who owns it. It’ll be pulled out of the water and impounded.
Imagine, a photo of Puget Sound in which the water and islands are visible, finally! The focus of this photo, sent by Danny McMillin, is the USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) as it passed West Seattle, headed northbound. It’s a 37-year-old Safeguard-class rescue and salvage ship operated by the Military Sealift Command. According to the MSC website, USNS Grasp is used for “salvage, diving, towing, off-shore firefighting, heavy lift operations, and theater security cooperation missions.” It’s homeported in San Diego.
Lots of questions about why the R/V Thomas G. Thompson has been off west-facing West Seattle all day. It’s a 274-foot research vessel belonging to the Office of Naval Research and operated by the University of Washington; we’ve reported on it a few times before, including this note in 2010. We contacted the UW Oceanography department to ask about today’s mission; according to the reply from Su Tipple, it’s “on a 12-hour day cruise to video-document the most active methane seeps in the vent field off Alki Point, as well as taking methane and other water measurements.” We’ve reported on the methane research before, after another UW research vessel, R/V Rachel Carson, was seen in local waters, studying the bubbles as part of research that could eventually assist in earthquake prediction (detailed here in 2020; published in a study earlier this year, also summarized here). The plumes of methane bubbles are most prolific off Alki Point – rising more than 650 feet to the surface – and Kingston, according to researchers, but the methane’s source remains a mystery.
Today is the final day of the two-month test run for passenger-ferry service between Des Moines and Downtown Seattle. It’s been running four round trips a day, Wednesdays through Saturdays, and should be just now wrapping up its last trip. This past week, in the test run’s final days, a group of West Seattle residents emailed the city of Des Moines to voice concerns about the vessel chartered for the test, the Chilkat Express, saying it’s the loudest boat on the water, and fearing it could have an adverse effect on noise-sensitive Southern Resident Killer Whales. Their letter, on which we were copied, suggested that while Des Moines makes its decision on whether to bring back the service, they should plan to at least engage with noise-reduction initiatives. We followed up with the Des Moines department operating the service, which replied, “One thing to note is that the vessel in operation is primarily used as a whale watching boat and its operation is highly sensitive to that environment so if there was a concern in the area that it’s operating in, we believe it would have undoubtably been noted.” The West Seattle group also contacted the organization that’s been leading the Quiet Sound ship-noise-reduction program; their reply noted that their initial efforts haven’t included passenger vessels but they do have a workgroup in that area, led by Washington State Ferries, and would invite the Chilkat Express’s operator Puget Sound Express to join if they wind up continuing passenger service for Des Moines. Regarding that “if,” the Des Moines plan is to review how the trial period went, but they told us they don’t have a timeline for that review yet.
The photo and report are from Margot Newman:
Paddleboarders successfully circumnavigated Vashon Island in one day! Is this a “world record??” Has it been done? :)
Left Point Beals, Vashon Island at 07:00. (East side) Headed south to portage at junction of Vashon and Maury. Headed around south end (past Tahlequah) then up west side. Got off boards for brief lunch break at Lisabeula Park on west side. Headed north until hit north end. Crossed ferry path, then along east side to return to Point Beals. Arrived at 16:45,
Only got off boards twice – to portage and for lunch/ bathroom break at Lisabeula.
Careful navigation of the waters, including reading current and wind, was paramount to their success. All four paddlers are Puget Sound Pilots and have extensive knowledge in navigation, current, wind, etc.
Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – she said what’s likely a baleen whale has been seen in Elliott Bay, fairly close to Don Armeni Boat Ramp at last report. (Humpbacks and grays are the most-commonly seen baleen whales around here.)
Thanks for the photos/tips! That was the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) headed northbound in Puget Sound earlier this morning. It’s been about seven weeks since it was last seen headed the other way, to Bremerton, after two weeks of training.
Looking for something to watch on this holiday? “The Giant Pacific Octopus” is not your everyday documentary – it looks at its namesake animal in some unusual ways, including legends and art. It’s centered in Puget Sound, and a West Seattle business is proud of its participation. From Seattle Dive Tours‘ Scott Flaherty:
Seattle Dive Tours, based in Admiral District and Seacrest, is featured in “The Giant Pacific Octopus” documentary.
The team of Seattle Dive Tours was happy to participate in this locally produced documentary about GPOs, art, history and conservation.
Maddi Frye (Seattle Dive Tours Manager and Marine Biologist) and Dr. Kelly Bushnell (Seattle Dive Tours Instructor and Ocean Historian) are both interviewed in the film.
The documentary is currently available for streaming on Tubi. We’ve also heard it may be coming to Amazon Prime Video in the future.
We’ve already previewed a multitude of big events this weekend – street parties and more – but if you’re watching the water, you might see these four aquatic attempts:
BIG SWIMS: The Northwest Open Water Swimming Association sent word of three big swims to West Seattle this weekend:
On Saturday 8/27, Amanda Winans will attempt to swim the “Bert Thomas swim” from Old Town Dock Tacoma to Lincoln Park in West Seattle, finishing at the point where Colman Pool is (30.2 km/18.8 mi). This swim was pioneered by Bert Thomas in 1959 and has been completed once since by Andrew Malinak in 2015. Amanda is from West Seattle (now lives in Wallingford) and grew up biking to Lincoln Park and swimming at Colman as a kid. Tracking will be at track.rs/nowsa. Start time is 5 am, and her expected finish time at Lincoln Park is 3-4 pm.
On Sunday 8/28, we have two swims both finishing at Alki Lighthouse but coming from opposite directions! Emma Gaulke-Janowski will start at Pt Robinson light on Vashon at 6 am and swim to Alki light (21.2 km/13.2 mi), starting at 6 am with an expected finish time of 11 am -12 pm. Chelsea Lee will attempt the Amy Hiland swim, from Bremerton to Alki light (16.8 km/10.4 mi), starting at 7 am with an expected finish time of 12 – 1 pm. Both swimmers are from West Seattle and have been training open water at Alki for about 2 years. Tracking for these swims will be at track.rs/nowsaEmma and track.rs/nowsaChelsea
1:04 PM: Thanks to Jon Wright for the photo. That’s state ferry M/V Cathlamet, headed out of Washington State Ferries‘ Eagle Harbor maintenance facility this morning. It’s been four weeks since Cathlamet crashed into an offshore structure (known as a dolphin) at the Fauntleroy terminal while arriving from Vashon. WSF spokesperson Ian Sterling says Cathlamet will be drydocked at Everett Ship Repair and that it’s not expected back in service before the end of the year. They aren’t citing an estimate for what repairs will cost, only that it’s “well into the millions.” (The car stuck beneath the collapsed section of ferry has been removed, in case you’re wondering.) We’ve also asked for an update on the dolphin repair plans and will add that when we get it. We’re checking separately on the status of the investigation, which was to be led by the U.S. Coast Guard. The captain on duty at the time of the crash, a 36-year WSF veteran, resigned days later.
6:11 PM: Here’s what WSF’s Sterling says about the dolphin: “Price estimate for the dolphin repair is fluctuating but remains in the hundreds of thousands range. Repair should start in late September, depending on material availability. We need some odd sized, out of stock parts and this could force the date to slide a little.”
Wednesday (August 10) will be the first day for a two-month pilot, running a passenger-only ferry between the Des Moines Marina and the Bell Harbor Marina on the downtown Seattle waterfront. They’ll be using the Chilkat Express, chartered from and operated by Puget Sound Express. For starters, they’re planning four roundtrips daily, Wednesdays through Sundays (see the schedule here). It’s expected to take about 40 minutes each way. For the first week, they’re offering free rides, but starting Wednesday, August 17th, it’ll be $10 each way (see other fares here). The city of Des Moines announcement of the service includes some interesting side notes – such as a plan to use Highline Public Schools students as paid intern deckhands
Thanks to LM for the photos. Don Armeni Boat Ramp is busy today – with a commensurate increase in boats on Elliott Bay – because of the opening of a three-and-a-half-day season for chinook salmon fishing.
According to the state Fish and Wildlife Department, this season will be open until noon Monday (August 8th), “east of a line from Duwamish Head to Pier 91 up to the Duwamish River mouth, including Harbor Island (both the west and east Duwamish waterways).” Daily limit is two chinook, at least 22 inches long.
12:38 PM: The Seafair Fleet Week Parade of Ships is in view from West Seattle, coming from the north and heading east in Elliott Bay toward the downtown waterfront.
The Seattle Fire Department fireboat Leschi is spraying to welcome them, off Alki.
In addition to the U.S. Navy’s USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), the Canadian ships HMCS Yellowknife (706) and HMCS Saskatoon (709) are participating, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s participants are USCGC Terrapin, USCGC Osprey, and USCGC Henry Blake. USCG helicopter flyby, too.
1:02 PM: Now passing Duwamish Head. (Added – ship photos:)
1:39 PM: Now along the downtown waterfront; the U.S. Navy ships will be open for tours at Pier 90 (Magnolia) starting tomorrow, while the Canadian and USCG ships will be at downtown piers – see the full schedule here.
One of the last big returning events of the summer is the climactic week of Seafair, from Fleet Week to the Blue Angels performances to hydroplane racing. It starts tomorrow with the Parade of Ships in Elliott Bay, passing West Seattle shores. Today the U.S. Navy announced which ships you’ll see before they dock at Pier 90 in Magnolia for tours: Guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) from San Diego and guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) from Everett. The official Parade of Ships time on the downtown waterfront is 12:30 pm Monday, so they should be visible sometime in the preceding hour. As is the case most years – before the pandemic hiatus – U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy ships are expected to participate too. After the Parade of Ships, a USCG search-and-rescue demonstration is planned off the downtown waterfront. Meantime, Navy ship tours at Pier 90 are scheduled:
Tuesday, August 2 from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
Wednesday, August 3 from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
Thursday, August 4 from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
Friday, August 5 from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 6 from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. on USS Lake Champlain; and 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on USS John Paul Jones.
For more info on tour protocols, go here.
While awaiting marathon swimmer Alison Peterson‘s arrival at Alki Point, we got a glimpse of one of today’s other big events = the Seattle Outrigger Canoe Club‘s annual “Da Grind” races. Paddlers raced on one of two courses, four miles and 12 miles. The outriggers we saw were on the long course, which went to Blake Island and back.
One more human-powered boat-racing event is yet to come this summer off Alki – Sound Rowers’ Great Cross-Sound Race is set for August 27th.
While at the beach checking out day 1 of the Alki Art Fair (more on that a bit later), we spotted the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) passing south Bainbridge Island, inbound toward Rich Passage. It’s been two weeks since the Bremerton-homeported aircraft carrier headed out. It’s been out on training missions before its next deployment; USNI News reported on strike-group members out with it this time.
P.S. As mentioned here last night, tomorrow’s West Seattle Grand Parade is scheduled to include a 21′ replica of the Nimitz, brought by a military-history group. (Friday night note, just got word this parade entry has canceled.)
2:17 PM: Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photo, and to others for the tips. The Bremerton-homeported aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) is outbound again, passing West Seattle while heading northbound earlier this afternoon. It’s currently off the west side of Whidbey Island, according to MarineTraffic.com. The last sighting here was less than two weeks ago, as Nimitz returned home from training.
4:35 PM: One tipster earlier mentioned the Nimitz was closer to Alki than usual when passing, The photo just added above, sent by Michael Ostrogorsky, shows what that looked like. Meantime, the carrier is now out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, westbound.
1:16 PM: Another West Seattle summer tradition returned moments ago at Alki Beach, as the Seafair Pirates landed aboard the Global vessel Prudhoe Bay.
As previewed here, this year’s landing is a “scaled-down” event – no accompanying all-day festival with vendors and activities, just the Pirates mingling with fans.
More photos later.
8:05 PM: As promised:
Scurvy selfies could be had:
The crowd was (a)vastly less dense than in past years:
Trinkets were offered to some on shore:
The Pirates will be busy with parade season soon too – this year’s returning parades include the West Seattle Grand Parade just four weeks from today, July 23rd, and the Seafair Torchlight Parade a week after that.