West Seattle, Washington
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.
Kitsap Transit launches its third cross-Sound passenger-ferry route today, another one that’ll be in view off West Seattle – eight weekday round trips between Southworth and downtown Seattle. The system already runs passenger ferries to downtown >from Kingston and Bremerton, all authorized by a 2016 ballot measure. The Southworth run will use the same dock there as Washington State Ferries, using the M/V Enetai, the first of two bow-loading vessels built for Kitsap Transit. Crossing time is just under half an hour. It’ll be fare-free for the first month, then $2 eastbound and $10 westbound starting in May.
4:38 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip – transient killer whales are in the area, midchannel in Puget Sound, southbound, passing the mouth of Elliott Bay. Let us know if you see them!
7:06 PM: Texter says they’re in view now looking south toward the Fauntleroy/Vashon ferry lane.
Thanks to Greg for sending the photo, taken from the hillside east of Weather Watch Park. He notes, “Seems most likely it’s the USS Connecticut based on the MMSI number provided by Marine Traffic.” The Connecticut is indeed based at Naval Base Kitsap, and made headlines earlier this week for a reported bedbug infestation; the linked story notes it had training scheduled this week.
Washington State Ferries has been somewhat vessel-challenged lately, but in case you wondered – as did a few readers who contacted us – the scene above is not a new breakdown. M/V Wenatchee passed north-facing West Seattle with tugboats this morning on its way from the WSF maintenance facility at Eagle Harbor to Vigor shipyard on Harbor Island in West Seattle. At Eagle Harbor, Wenatchee was painted; at Vigor (where it was built), it will go into drydock for stern-tube repairs. It’s expected to return to service sometime this spring.
9:58 AM: We mentioned on Thursday that the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) was almost home; it stopped at Indian Island in the north Sound before finishing its journey home to Bremerton after 10+ months away. It’ll be passing West Seattle soon – it’s just north of Elliott Bay now.
10:35 AM: Passing south Bainbridge, about to make the turn.
1:22 PM: Here’s another look at it passing, from Don Brubeck in Upper Alki:
The carrier has now arrived in Bremerton – Eric Gattenby tweeted this photo from Rich Passage, between here and there:
A recap of its long deployment is in this report by Josh Farley of the Kitsap Sun. The Nimitz, going on a half-century old, is scheduled to now go into maintenance.
6:37 AM: When USS Nimitz (CVN 68) last passed West Seattle, in April 2020, the aircraft carrier was headed out for training followed immediately by deployment. Later today, Nimitz and crew will pass by again, this time on their way home to Bremerton. The MarineTraffic.com tracker shows the carrier entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca around 3 am, and right now it’s about to pass Port Angeles, so it’s still hours away, but some local would-be shipwatchers asked for a heads-up, so here you go. The Nimitz stopped in San Diego last weekend before the final leg of the journey home.
12:36 PM: Thanks to everyone who sent photos! That’s the heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 10), returning home to Seattle this morning after a 2 1/2-month journey to the Arctic. The 45-year-old heavy icebreaker usually goes to the Antarctic this time of year, but the pandemic got in the way of that mission, and the Coast Guard announced in October that Polar Star would head north instead. Here’s an Alaska news report on the end of the Polar Star’s deployment; see photos here.
6:16 PM: Those photos are also featured in a news release published by the USCG late today.