Port of Seattle buys Salmon Bay Marina

The Port of Seattle has purchased Salmon Bay Marina, a privately-owned operation on five acres just to the west of Fishermen’s Terminal. The price: $15.6 million.

The Port said it bought the marina to protect maritime industrial land and support the growth of Fishermen’s Terminal. The Port has set a goal to double the size of the “commercial fishing business cluster” at Fishermen’s Terminal (you can see the Port’s plans here).

With five docks that support 166 slips, Salmon Bay Marina has been privately owned by the Draper family for 72 years. With the change to public ownership, the Port plans to remove houseboats but continue to serve other boats moored at the facility. The Port is also exploring the potential for “light industrial facilities that could support maritime and manufacturing companies in the area.”

“Salmon Bay Marina is a valuable waterfront property perfectly suited for continued maritime use,” said Eugene Wasserman, President of the North Seattle Industrial Association, in the Port’s press release. “I thank the Port of Seattle for preserving this industrial property that will provide jobs and tax revenue throughout our region.”

A study found commercial fishing activity at Fishermen’s Terminal generates $450 million in business revenue and nearly $40 million in state and local taxes every year, according to the Port of Seattle. The Port says it plans to take over operations at Salmon Bay Marina when the deal closes in 45 to 180 days.

Seattle Fire to honor Good Samaritans who rescued boater off Shilshole

This last Saturday, a 35-foot fishing boat sank off Shilshole. A nearby boat saw the fisherman was in trouble, so they responded and pulled the man out of the water before rescue crews arrived.

“The Good Samaritans rescued the man from the boat, took him to shore, and provided him with dry socks, dry shoes and money for a hotel,” explains Seattle Fire.

Now the Good Samaritans, who remain anonymous, will be honored with letters of recognition from Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. Well deserved!

Coast Guard releases report on deadly sinking of Alaska Ranger

In March of 2008, five people were lost and 42 rescued from the Seattle-based fish processing vessel, the Alaska Ranger, which sank approximately 130 miles west of Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

A Coast Guard photo of one of the life rafts.

The Coast Guard has now determined the cause of the sinking:

The Board determined that the cause of the sinking was flooding that likely started in the rudder room, but rapidly progressed to the engine room and other spaces due to a lack of watertight integrity.

While the exact source of the uncontrolled flooding remains unknown, a thorough analysis of the facts indicates the most likely source was related to the vessel’s poor material condition and may have been related to the Kort nozzle struts. The struts support the nozzles shrouding the propellers at the stern of the vessel and are believed to have experienced excessive stresses where they were attached to the vessel’s hull.

The Board concluded that the Fishing Company of Alaska failed to properly maintain the structural condition of the Alaska Ranger. Evidence of extensive and repeated fracturing of the nozzle struts and structural failures in the aft ballast tanks and potable water tanks went unaddressed.

At the time of the sinking, ABC News interviewed a survivor who says the crew called it the “Ranger Danger” because the employer had delayed making repairs.

After the tragedy, which four crewmembers died and one remains missing but presumed dead, the Coast Guard took action. “Based on its findings, the Board made 37 recommendations that address the lack of comprehensive safety regulations for fishing vessels, facilitate the consistent application of existing regulations and correct shortcomings in the ACSA (Alternate Compliance Safety Agreement) program that existed at the time of the casualty.” The Coast Guard also released two marine safety alerts. The first “emphasized the need for vessel owners, operators and masters with controllable pitch propellers to understand the design and operation of their system,” according to the report. The second “urged owners and operators to take immediate action to ensure the watertight integrity of their vessels.”

Fleet blessed at Fishermen’s Terminal

For the 82nd straight year, a gathering at Fishermen’s Terminal prayed for the safety of the men and women who harvest fish in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. This year, the captain and crew of Ariel received the blessing.

“Be with us now as we consecrate the vessel, Ariel and bless all the labors of those who work at sea,” said Pastor Erik Weiberg from Ballard First Lutheran Church. As is customary, he handed the captain a symbolic flag.

Brian Wartman accepted the flag and handed it to his son and co-captain, Adam, who raised it above the boat. A family operation, Ariel will head to Alaska in June to fish for salmon. Also at today’s ceremony, Mayor Mike McGinn, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County Council Chairperson Bob Ferguson and Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryan.

This was the first time in 21 years that Rev. Malcolm Unseth, who passed away last April, did not conduct the blessing of the fleet. A tile has been placed in his honor at the Fishermen’s Memorial.

One of the names placed among flowers at the base of the memorial is Capt. Phil Harris, best known for his role in “Deadliest Catch.” He died in February after suffering a stroke off-loading crab in Alaska. Fishing is one of the nation’s most dangerous professions, especially here in the Northwest.

Maritime industry leaders tour Terminal 91

The new Smith Cove Cruise ship terminal has been open just a little more than a month, and this morning maritime industry leaders from Ballard and surrounding neighborhoods took a tour of Terminal 91.

The terminal has served the fishing industry for two decades, and now it’s also home to cruise ships heading to Alaska. “The fishing business is hugely important to us, and we want to make sure it works,” Charlie Sheldon who runs the Port’s seaport division said. When the first cruise ships pulled into port on May 8th, it coincided with a busy weekend for the fishing industry. Fortunately none of the factory trawlers had to be turned away, even though things got a little intense. “We bent the rules a little bit in terms of where we put guys,” Sheldon said, “So we got cross-ways with the Coast Guard.”

The group also toured the new cruise terminal, the only place in the world with two power hookups for ships. With multiple ships coming into and out of port each week, traffic has been impacted on 15th Ave. Some concerns were raised about congestion in the southbound lanes of 15th as buses and cars wait in the left-hand turn lane. In the early weeks of the cruise season, many passengers were confused, so a big sign was added to the Galer Street flyover pointing people in the right direction.

In all, today’s group was happy with the Port’s work to ensure fishing industry stays afloat in the wake of an expanding cruise ship presence.

‘Deadliest Catch’ fans flood CatchCon

My Ballard reader Rob Senita attended Saturday’s sold-out Deadliest Catch fan convention in Seattle featuring Ballard’s most famous fishermen. Rob filed this report from “CatchCon” below…

One of the hottest tickets in town today was not the Mariners or Sounders, but CatchCon. Discovery Channel put on the first-ever Deadliest Catch Convention today at Pier 66. Tickets were limited to the first 500 people who signed up on Discovery Channel’s Web site.

The doors opened at noon, and ticket holders were ushered into the convention center where they could test their skill in the “Deadliest Sort” — a game where you had 30 seconds to sort through plastic crabs according to the gender.

The Wizard and Northwestern boats were on hand for tours throughout day. You were able to climb aboard these mighty vessels and take photos with some of the crew and of the boat itself.

The Q&A session with all of the captains was the best part of the day. Some great stories were told by Sig Hansen, skipper of Ballard’s own Northwestern. “It doesn’t get any more real,” he said when asked about the show and the camera crews. “They’d follow you into the can if they could. They’re serious.” Keith Colburn was asked how his head was after he was slammed into the hull of his boat while diving under it in the Bering Sea, he said he still a small egg but was fine.

Captain Phil Harris was asked if during this season he makes it back into the wheelhouse of the Cornelia Marie and he responded with, “You’ll just have to wait and see.” He said his health was getting better and that his health was more important than fishing.

After the Q&A, fans lined up to get as many autographs as they could from the captains and crew. The Coast Guard made an appearance as well. They performed a rescue simulation just off of the pier where a rescue swimmer jumped out of the helo and into the water to “rescue ” a victim. Following the Coast Guard exehibition, several producers sat on a panel and gave insight from behind the lense of the camera into what it takes to make the show happen. The producers then brought out one of Sig’s jackets and auctioned it off to the crowd to benefit Fisherman’s Fund. The Fund was set up by Sig and proceeds go to benefit the families of those who were lost at sea. The jacket raised over $2000 for the charity.

The last half hour of the day, we were shown a clip of this weeks episode. SORRY, I will not ruin it for you but make sure you watch Tuesday at 9 pm. Overall, Discovery Channel did a good job at their first Catch Con. I hope they bring the next Catch Con back to Seattle.

Thanks Rob for the report! Photos from Rob and CatchCon staff. You can see more photos as well as video clips of the Q&A right here.

‘Blessing of the Fleet’ at Fishermen’s Terminal

It’s been an annual tradition for 81 years, and this year Pastor Erik Wilson Weiberg of Ballard First Lutheran Church conducted the “Blessing of the Fleet” at Fishermen’s Terminal. Even with today’s technology, fishing is still a very dangerous business. Back in October, seven crew members were killed when the Katmai sunk off the Aleutian Islands. And last week, the Coast Guard rescued five crew members from a grounded ship in Alaska. While safety is always on everyone’s mind in the fishing industry, so is the economy. “This generation of fishermen might not make as much money as their parents,” Jubilee Fisheries executive John Bruce told SeattlePI.com. “That’s not a happy thought.”