West Seattle, Washington
Thanks to James Bratsanos for the photos of a cluster of fishing boats south off Alki Point today. Online research suggested they’re likely looking for lingcod, and state Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Chase Gunnell confirmed it: “Yes, May 1 is the annual lingcod fishing opener for recreational anglers in Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and Strait of Juan de Fuca. Rockpiles and reefs off Alki Point and Blake Island are popular fishing spots for these predatory and delicious bottomfish.”
Gunnell also notes you can find out more about lingcod fishing here.
(Photo tweeted by U.S. Coast Guard)
6:17 PM: We’re mentioning this because (a) west-facing West Seattleites might see emergency vessel/helicopter traffic as a result, and (b) the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth ferry route might get busier because of it: A Washington State Ferries boat has run aground while traveling from Bremerton to Seattle. U.S. Coast Guard vessels are at the scene where M/V Walla Walla is grounded in Rich Passage along the south side of Bainbridge Island near West Blakely [vicinity map]. It happened around 4:30 pm, WSF says, adding that initial indications are that “generator failure” was a factor. The Seattle-Bremerton run is out of service until further notice because of the mishap, as Walla Walla (50 years old) was the only boat on the run. No injuries reported, per the Coast Guard.
6:39 PM: The state Ecology Department says neither hull damage nor pollution has been detected so far. … One of the passengers stuck aboard tweeted that they’re “waiting to abandon ship but not clear how yet.”
7:50 PM: As noted in comments, Kitsap Transit has two of its foot ferries standing by to help get the passengers off the Walla Walla.
8:29 PM: And the Coast Guard says that’s happening right now:
(Photo tweeted by U.S. Coast Guard)
10:46 PM: The Coast Guard says the passenger evacuation is wrapping up and: “The rising tide will assist during the slated removal of the vessel from the shoal water. Peak high tide is at 3:23 am.”
ADDED SUNDAY: The boat indeed was refloated on the early-morning high tide and moved to Bremerton, where people were able to go retrieve their vehicles later in the morning. The Bremerton-Seattle run is being handled today by M/V Issaquah so the Walla Walla could be evaluated.
10:20 AM: Thanks for the tips and photos! The aircraft carrier headed northbound right now is USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), confirmed via MarineTraffic.com. It arrived in Bremerton in 2021 for major overhaul work.
1 PM: You can read more about the Theodore Roosevelt’s departure – headed back to its San Diego homeport – via the Kitsap Sun.
Thanks to Rachel for the photos of Seattle Fire Department fireboat Leschi off Don Armeni Boat Ramp this afternoon. It’s not unusual to see a fireboat out testing – or sometimes welcoming (during the Seafair Fleet arrival or the first cruise ship of the season, for example) – but Rachel also heard the unmistakable strains of “Amazing Grace.” So we contacted SFD to see if it perhaps had been a memorial. Just got the reply. The Leschi was already scheduled to be out drilling, and then: “A retired Seattle Fire Boat Engineer recently passed away. The crew learned that the family was going to be at the park, so during their drill, they did a thoughtful gesture and honored Retired Fire Boat Engineer Connie Sample with a water show. One of the firefighters had his bagpipes with him and played.”
Thanks to Brooke Gosztola for the photo! In case you wondered too – the sailboats visible from west-facing West Seattle are, as best we can determine, part of a Corinthian Yacht Club race (starting and finishing at Shilshole).
Thanks for the photo and tips. Another submarine sighting off West Seattle this morning, this time inbound to Bremerton. We have an inquiry out to Naval Base Kitsap. The last passing-submarine sighting reported here, on February 10th, was eventually reported by the Kitsap Sun to have been the USS Key West, arriving for decommissioning. The one seen the day before that was the USS Louisiana, outbound after a 41-month overhaul.
Thanks to everyone who’s sent photos of that paddlewheeler being towed/pushed northbound along west-facing West Seattle shores and then eastbound into Elliott Bay. MarineTraffic.com does not identify it – only the tugs with it – but searching by image indicates it’s the Emerald Queen, a 1995-built 300-foot paddlewheeler that once housed the casino of the same name. It had been listed for sale. We’re checking around to find out more about its fate and destination; the tugs’ online track indicates it was brought up here from Tacoma.
That distant texted pic is the only photo we have, but multiple readers report another submarine sighting off West Seattle earlier this afternoon. This time, the submarine was inbound, headed for Bremerton. One reader said, “Looks like a Los Angeles class, not the Ohio class that departed yesterday.”
Thanks to the readers who sent photos of that submarine as it passed West Seattle, northbound, just after 9 am today. MarineTraffic.com identifies it only as “submarine,” currently off Edmonds, still northbound.
ADDED SATURDAY: Two photos sent by readers:
Thanks to Lynn Hall for the photo. That’s the U.S. Navy littoral combat ship USS Omaha (LCS 12), seen in Elliott Bay this afternoon. It’s been undergoing maintenance work at Vigor‘s Harbor Island shipyard, which announced a $110 million contract in 2021 to work on the Omaha and another littoral combat ship, USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10).
Thanks to everyone who’s sent photos of the sailboats off West Seattle this afternoon! Above, Chris Frankovich‘s view from Seola; below, Brooke Gozstola‘s view from further north:
And from Mike Fischer, who notes that this is the Three Tree Point Yacht Club‘s Duwamish Head Race.
According to the TTPYC website, more than 50 yachts were registered for the race. The race course – starting and finishing in Des Moines – is outlined here.
11:57 AM: The crew contracted to remove a semi-sunken sailboat from Don Armeni Boat Ramp is trying again today. Last Thursday, we reported on their plan to take it to Shilshole; a commenter noted the next day that the boat hadn’t been moved after all. So we went by this morning to see if it was gone yet, and found the tow crew working on it again. They explained that last week’s attempt was thwarted because the boat “sprang a leak” but they’ve remedied the situation and are hopeful today’s attempt will work. (We’ll check back later.)
ADDED TUESDAY EVENING: We did go back to look at day’s end, and the boat indeed is gone.
Back on Saturday, we reported on a false-alarm water-rescue call at Don Armeni Boat Ramp, related to a sinking sailboat that turned out to have been there for some days. By the next day, the boat was entirely submerged. Today, it’s being removed. After a tip from Doug, we went over for a look. The crew from BoatUS, which included a diver, told us they’re working on behalf of an insurance company.
They plan to take the boat over to Shilshole, where it’ll be cut up for salvage.
ORIGINAL WEDNESDAY REPORT: Thanks to everyone who sent photos of this vessel seen from Alki today, removing floating logs/trees from Elliott Bay, after the king tide – and rain-swollen rivers – swept so many out to sea. It’s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers‘ M/V Puget, explained here as the USACE’s “debris recovery vessel,” with authority to “remove trees, brush and other debris that may be determined to be obstructions to navigation or that may promote flooding.”
M/V Puget is 78 years old and 104 feet long, based in Ballard. We tried contacting the Corps today to ask for specifics on this operation but haven’t heard back yet.
ADDED THURSDAY AFTERNOON: USACE Seattle spokesperson Scott Lawrence confirms that’s what the Puget was doing and that its crew members “are continuing work in the greater central Puget Sound, clearing logs from the recent king tides and high winds the area experienced.” As for what happens to the logs pulled from the water: “The logs and debris are taken to our debris barges at the Hiram M. Chittenden locks in Ballard, Washington, where a contractor comes in and recycles the material.”
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.
(WSB photos/video unless otherwise credited)
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”).
(January 2022 photo by Holli Margell)
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.
(August photo by David Hutchinson)
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.
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