DAVID G. SELLARS ON THE WATERFRONT: Farewell to a true waterfront character
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Chris Roberts
Gene Nickell's former fishing boat on which he lived nearly four decades — and where a wealth of used golf balls was found aboard.
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David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
One of the three Coast Guard escort vessels for submarines transiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca sits moored at Boat Haven in Port Angeles.

By David G. Sellars
PDN Maritime Columnist

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FEWER than two months after celebrating his 90th birthday with family and friends, retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Gene Nickell died of natural causes at his residence in a Port Angeles motel.

One of the more colorful people of the North Olympic Peninsula waterfront scene, Gene died Jan. 3.

Raised in Forks, Gene retired from the Navy in the 1960s.

After a second career with the post office, he bought a 30-foot salmon troller named Faith and fished out of Neah Bay until the late 1970s or early ’80s.

When he called it quits from that pursuit, he pulled Faith into the Port Angeles Boat Haven and became part of the marina’s live-aboard community.

Gene’s daily routine consisted of riding his bicycle to McDonald’s at the other end of town, and after partaking of his repast, he would walk to the Peninsula Golf Club to search the hazards and rough for errant and lost golf balls.

In December 2011, a broken leg landed him in the hospital.

While recovering in a convalescent hospital, he made the difficult decision that he would not return to the home he had known for nearly 40 years.

Faith subsequently was pulled from the water.

Shortly thereafter, Todd Richie dismantled the boat, and whatever could not be recycled was hauled to the dump.

Todd said when he first went aboard the boat, he was quite surprised at the number of golf balls he encountered.

He added that there was a Gull Wing-type toolbox normally found on the back of pickup trucks that was full of balls.

At least 500 more were loose.

Todd went on to say that he picked through Gene’s collection and selected 18 of the more singular examples.

He put them in an egg carton to serve as a reminder of one of the more well-regarded characters that once called the Boat Haven home.

Underway status

In the current edition of Straitlines, the monthly newsletter of the North Olympic Sail and Power Squadron, there is a reminder to members who have automatic identification system, or AIS, transponders on their boats to accurately report the underway status of their boats.

This is good advice to all vessel owners regardless of any club affiliation.

AIS is an automatic tracking system that is used on commercial vessels, yachts and an increasing number of recreational boats to identify themselves and monitor vessel activity by electronically exchanging data with AIS base stations and other vessels that are similarly equipped.

The information provided by the AIS includes a unique identifier for each vessel and its position, course and speed.

This time of the year, recreational boaters tend to drift no farther than the confines of their home.

In so doing, a fair number of them have neglected to properly delineate their vessel’s navigational status by switching the setting on their AIS transponder from “under way” to either “anchored” or “moored.”

Failing to do so clutters the system with extraneous information and affects a boater’s ability to accurately navigate and detect approaching vessels.

This is because an anchored or moored vessel with an AIS system reports the vessel’s status every three minutes.

However, an underway navigational status can report as frequently as every couple of seconds.

For the safety of all boaters, the North Olympic Sail and Power Squadron requests that all boaters do an AIS double-check to make certain their transponders are on the correct setting, thus ensuring the system’s availability in a
time of true need.

The North Olympic unit is part of the United States Power Squadron, a nonprofit educational organization that was founded in 1914 and has more than 45,000 members in 450 squadrons nationwide.

It provides instruction on numerous topics of boat ownership and operation, including seamanship, piloting, celestial navigation, plotting and position finding, engine maintenance and sailing.

On Monday, the North Olympic squadron will hold its monthly meeting at Cedars at Dungeness Golf Club, 1965 Woodcock Road, Sequim. Anyone interested in boating is welcome to attend.

The social hour begins at
5 p.m., dinner will be served at
6 p.m. and the meeting begins at 7 p.m.

This month’s featured speakers are Judy and Bill Newblom, who will share some pictures and history as well as explain how a person can become a guest at the New Dungeness Lighthouse.

Dinner is $19 per person, and reservations may be made by calling Sandy Thomas at 360-683-8801.

However, you do not need to purchase dinner to attend the meeting.

Visiting trio

Three 64-foot aluminum Coast Guard boats moored to the guest float in the Port Angeles Boat Haven last week.

These recurring visitors are escort vessels that were built by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding in Somerset, Mass.

Their mission is to act as a screen for high-value military assets in domestic ports.

They work in conjunction with the HOS Arrowhead and HOS Eagleview to escort submarines as they transit the Strait of Juan de Fuca into and out of Hood Canal.

The escort vessels are powered by twin MTU diesel engines that are coupled to Hamilton water jets, and can reach speeds in excess of 30 knots.

The boats are equipped with a head, galley, berths and lockers, and mounted on each foredeck is a remotely operated weapon system.

The interiors are outfitted with Shockwave heavy-duty suspension seats, shock-mitigating floor matting and a heating and air-conditioning system.

They are equipped with thermal imaging systems and an array of the latest technology for their navigational and communication requirements.

In for repairs

The oil tanker SeaRiver Kodiak moored to the Port of Port Angeles’ Terminal 1 North on Thursday morning.

According to Chandra “Hollywood” McGoff of Washington Marine Repair, the topside ship-repair facility at the foot of Cedar Street, personnel removed a large fan motor that was shipped to Tacoma for repairs.

She said that during the three days it takes for the fan to be returned, welders are making miscellaneous repairs.

The 869-foot-long tanker should be under way Tuesday.

Harbor activity

On Tuesday, Tesoro Petroleum provided bunkers in Port Angeles Harbor to ATB Sound Reliance, a 122-foot tug that interlocks with the 477-foot tank barge 550-2.

Although Sound Reliance is classified as a towing vessel, in reality, she is a pusher tug that does what the word implies: She pushes the tank barge as opposed to the more traditional method of towing it with a cable.

ATB vessels are easily distinguishable because the wheelhouse sits much higher than is typical of most tugs — so much so that they resemble little lighthouses as they push their way along their journey.

The Crowley-owned vessels are involved in the coastal trade, transporting petroleum products along the West Coast and to Hawaii.

On Wednesday, Tesoro refueled Sierra, an 866-foot-long crude-oil tanker that arrived in San Francisco at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday, Tesoro provided bunkers to AP Ston, a new 604-foot bulk cargo ship that came from Grays Harbor loaded with a cargo of grain bound for the Far East.


David G. Sellars is a Port Angeles resident and former Navy boatswain’s mate who enjoys boats and strolling the waterfront.

Items involving boating, port activities and the North Olympic Peninsula waterfronts are always welcome.

Email dgsellars@hotmail.com or phone him at 360-808-3202.

His column, On the Waterfront, appears Sundays.

Last modified: January 12. 2013 6:05PM
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