ON THE WATERFRONT WITH DAVID G. SELLARS: Lady Washington out of the water is still shipshape
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The Lady Washington, the state's official tall ship, sits in the slings of Platypus Marine Inc.'s 330-ton TraveLift on Saturday morning for a Coast Guard inspection after she ran aground in Grays Harbor last Thursday. She passed with flying colors. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
The Lady Washington, seen from the aft, hangs over the water in Port Angeles as she is hoisted for an inspection.
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David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
The Western Flyer, which inspired John Steinbeck in the 1940s, sits in a waterway in Skagit County with the name Gemini in 2011. She would sink twice before being brought to the Port Townsend Boat Haven boatyard earlier this year.
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David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
Capt. Charlie Crane, who did an exhaustive search to find the Western Flyer, is shown in front of the boat, which was moored near the twin-bridge state Highway 20 between Mount Vernon and Anacortes in 2011.
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David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
Two sinkings later, the encrusted Western Flyer sits on the hard in Port Townsend earlier this month.

By David G. Sellars
Peninsula Daily News

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Platypus Marine, Port Angeles' full-service shipyard, yacht-repair facility and steel-boat manufacturer on Marine Drive, is noted for hauling out big yachts, fishing boats and commercial and military vessels via the slings of its 330-ton TraveLift.

The clock turned back Saturday morning when Platypus temporarily lifted the tall ship Lady Washington, the 18th-century replica that's the state's official maritime ambassador, out of the water for an emergency inspection.

The Lady Washington ran aground late Thursday afternoon at the entrance to Westport Marina in Grays Harbor.

I understand that it is not an uncommon occurrence for the sailing ship's 11-foot keel to occasionally disturb a little bottom mud.

The mishap occurred close to where the Coast Guard was holding drills and stood by until she freed herself.

The Coast Guard then ordered the Lady Washington to Port Angeles for the emergency inspection.

The 112-foot replica of the first American vessel to make landfall on the west coast of North America in 1788 was out of the water for about 15 minutes, long enough for the Coast Guard to inspect her keel.

Then it was right back into the drink and on her way to her next goodwill appearance in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

History on the hard

In late August 2011, I accompanied Capt. Charlie Crane, who now works in the sales and marketing department of the Port Angeles aluminum-boat manufacturer Armstrong Marine, on a day trip into Skagit County to look at a boat.

Some months earlier, Charlie had heard that Western Flyer was moored somewhere in Washington state.

After an exhaustive search and much sleuthing, the vessel was finally located in the Swinomish Channel moored to a decrepit dock beneath the Twin Bridges on state Highway 20 in Mount Vernon.

Western Flyer was built by the Western Boat Building Co. of Tacoma as a purse seiner in 1937. She joined the vast fishing fleet in Monterey, Calif., during the glory days of the sardine industry and plied her trade until the spring of 1940.

It was then when she was chartered by the legendary novelist and eventual recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature, John Steinbeck, and his friend, marine biologist Ed “Doc” Ricketts.

They and Steinbeck's first wife, Carol, took a six-week voyage to the Gulf of California, the body of water that separates Baja California from mainland Mexico and is also known as the Sea of Cortez.

It was there that Steinbeck and Ricketts collected the marine specimens that they described in their collaborative work, Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journey of Travel and Research.

The narrative portion of the book was republished in 1951 by Steinbeck as The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

The 71-foot Western Flyer, described by some as the most famous boat in American nonfiction literature and by others as a national treasure, is currently sitting on the hard in the Port Townsend boatyard.

It's been quite a journey.

When Charlie and I were looking her over — at the time, she was named Gemini — I spoke with her former owner, Ole Knudson.

He told me that the boat had been used in Alaska for roughly 30 years as a salmon tender, but time and technology had eaten away at her economic efficiencies.

Knudson owned the boat for a few years until he sold her in December 2010 to Gerry Kehoe, an entrepreneur with business interests in Salinas, Calif., the hub of Steinbeck Country.

Kehoe envisioned making the vessel the centerpiece of a hotel and restaurant complex in downtown Salinas.

After Kehoe's purchase of Western Flyer, she remained at her moorage in Skagit County. Last Sept. 24, she sank in 30 feet of water.

The Coast Guard called in Global Diving and Salvage to boom the boat and remove roughly 750 gallons of fuel that remained in her tanks.

The company also patched the leak, pumped out the water and refloated the vessel.

Last Jan. 12 weekend, Western Flyer again settled her hulk on the floor of the Swinomish Channel. She was to remain there for nearly six months.

Last summer, she was refloated, towed to Port Townsend and placed on the hard where she now sits.

She's a barnacle-encrusted derelict that's about a million dollars away from ever floating in salt water again.

Kehoe's plan at one time was to install Western Flyer into a Salinas building he owns, build a moat around her and have seating on her decks for restaurant patrons.

More recently, those plans appear to have been whittled down to the removal of the vessel's deck house and gutting of its fixtures and equipment to provide seating for up to four tables of diners.

Competing interests on the Monterey Peninsula would like to acquire the vessel, make her seaworthy, return her to Monterey Bay and use her for public tours as well as an educational research vessel.

Apparently Kehoe has offered to sell the aged purse seiner for an amount that would cover his costs since acquisition of $150,000.

I understand that he paid $25,000 for Western Flyer, which means that his costs for environmental cleanup for the first sinking, refloating the vessel twice and transporting her to Port Townsend were about $125,000.

Interestingly enough, Capt. Crane, who was working with Platypus Marine at the time of our Skagit excursion, estimated that the hull could have been made stable enough for transportation for about $75,000.

That sum now seems like a bargain.

As reported by the PDN's Charlie Bermant earlier this month, Kehoe has not paid the Port of Port Townsend any rent for Western Flyer's boatyard space since she arrived in July.

He asked the port to lower the rent, and the port responded with the offer to waive $200 in late fees as long as Kehoe pays the full amount of $10,099 in back rent by today.

No tender has been reported.

Stay tuned.

Port Angeles Harbor watch

Tesoro Petroleum on Wednesday bunkered Alaskan Explorer in Port Angeles Harbor.

She's a 945-foot crude-oil tanker that's due to moor in Valdez, Alaska, at about noon today.

Tesoro the next day refueled ATB Vision, a 129-foot tug that interlocks with the 600-foot tank barge 650-10.

On Friday, Ron Winterfeld skillfully maneuvered Tesoro Petroleum's tank barge HMS 2000 alongside Zaliv Amerika and offloaded bunkers to the Cypriot-flagged crude-oil tanker that is 797 feet long.

Then on Saturday, Tesoro refueled Alaskan Navigator, a sister ship to Alaskan Explorer, and British Holly, a 787-foot crude-oil tanker that is flagged in the United Kingdom.


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

Items and questions 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 every Sunday.

Last modified: October 19. 2013 7:28PM
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