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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

CMA CGM Figaro Requires THREE Tugs!

It was quite windy on Sunday morning, January 29. When the fully loaded CMA CGM container ship, M/V Figaro, arrived in Elliott Bay about 10 AM, winds were gusting from the south at about 30 mph. A couple of hours earlier, gusts to 40 mph were being reported.

We had never seen either an incoming or outgoing ship require the assistance of three tugs, but that's precisely what we observed on the 29th, as three Foss tugs assisted Figaro as she approached her berth in the east waterway.

M/V Figaro is an 8500 teu container ship owned and operated by CMA CGA, the world’s third largest container shipping group. CMA CGM is headquartered in Marseille, France. See

The Figaro departed the Port of Seattle today, bound for Vancouver, BC. Notice that she appeared to have fewer containers behind the superstructure when she departed Seattle than when she arrived.

During her departure, Garth Foss, a 155-foot 8,000-hp tractor tug, passed in front of Figaro. According to, Garth Foss was delivered to Foss Tugs in 1993. At the time of delivery, she and a sister tug were reported to be the world's largest and most powerful tugs. She was originally designed to escort tankers in the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.

Sunset, Duwamish Head, January 27

When you're able to observe the sunset every day from the same vantage point and are surrounded with easily identifiable landmarks, as we are, it's fun to watch the point where the sun sets on the horizon. This point changes, of course, with the seasons.

The location of the sun on the horizon, when measured in degrees, is called its azimuth. By convention, azimuth is measured from north towards the east along the horizon.

On January 27, the date this picture was taken, sunset in Seattle, WA occurred at 5:02 PM. The sun's azimuth at sunset was 243 degrees, or 27 degrees south of due west. See From our vantage point on Alaskan Way above Bell Harbor Marina, the sun appeared to set directly off Duwamish Head at the northern tip of West Seattle.

By mid-March, the sun will set exactly in the west, with an azimuth of 270 degrees. And by mid-June, the sun's azimuth at sunset (as viewed from Seattle) will be 307 degrees, or 37 degrees north of due west -- again thanks to

Pretty simple stuff, but interesting nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SNOW, and lots of it -- and SKIING on Alaskan Way!

Depending on which weather resource you believe, we had between two and eight inches of snow today in downtown Seattle. At this moment (Wednesday, January 18, 6 PM), there are three inches of snow on our deck overlooking Alaskan Way.

Despite the fact that it snowed most of the day and never got above freezing, the UPS guy still wore Bermuda shorts. This is obviously someone who values his freedom. For what it's worth, the FedEx guy wore long pants today. Go figure.

Dogs seem to be of two minds about the snow. Some won't go out the front door unless their owner picks them up and carries them. Others frolic in the snow like kids at recess. This fellow was in the latter category. See if you can pick him out against the white background. It's the only time we caught him standing still during the entire time he was out there.

Finally, we have the lone cross-country skier skiing down Alaskan Way on the wrong side of the street. This was a first. He was in no danger. There was almost no traffic today.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 15, 2012 -- Snow

We have had several inches of snow along the Elliott Bay shoreline so far today. It's calm and peaceful out on the water. The new-fallen snow on the docks in Bell Harbor Marina is especially beautiful.

Across Elliott Bay and against the backdrop of snow-covered West Seattle, the Washington State Ferry Hyak passes M/V Navios Hyperion, a 2004 Japanese-built Panamax bulk carrier that has been anchored in the bay for the past several days. According to a January 2010 news release, Navios Hyperion is under charter through April 2014 at a rate of about $38,000 per day, plus operating costs.  

Finally, M/V Dirona, which departed Elliott Bay Friday afternoon for a brief weekend cruise to Langley and LaConner, returned to Bell Harbor around mid-day. We noted Dirona's departure in a January 13 blog post.

Friday, January 13, 2012

M/V Dirona departs Bell Harbor

M/V Dirona, the Nordhavn 52 moored at Bell Harbor Marina, left the harbor early this afternoon and is now at Langley on Whidbey Island for the evening. We enjoy following posts by Dirona's owners, Jennifer and James Hamilton, at

While Jennifer and James are undoubtedly having a nice evening at Langley, they missed one of the best sunsets over Elliott Bay that we've seen since moving here in September 2010. We hope that the sunset as viewed from Langley was equally spectacular.

For evidence that it was, go to M/V Dirona and click on "Langley" under "Recent Locations." You'll be treated to a photo and description of the equally beautiful sunset as seen from that location. 

Wind line on Elliott Bay, w/ navigation hazard

There was a very clear wind line on Elliott Bay at mid-day. A brisk northerly was blowing farther out on the water, but because the area of the bay east of the grain terminal (Pier 86) is protected by Queen Anne hill, the waters near Pier 66 were dead calm. The dividing line between rippled and calm water is easy to see in the above photograph.

Later, while observing activity on Elliott Bay, we heard a tug report the presence of a navigation hazard to Seattle Traffic (VHF Channel 14). A piling was floating vertically in the water, with only a couple of feet visible above the surface.  In the photograph below, the hazard is visible just off the port bow of Goodtime II, an Argosy tour boat that was conducting man-overboard drills off Pier 66.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kiel Express Arrives

The Hapag-Lloyd container ship M/V Kiel Express arrived in Elliott Bay this afternoon. The Kiel Express has a capacity of 4,626 TEU's (twenty-foot equivalent units), or about 2,300 normal (40-foot) size shipping containers. The ship was delivered in 1991.

In a somewhat unusual display of inter-company cooperation, the ship was escorted to its berth by one Foss tug and one Crowley tug.

Vessel Cooperation

Today, we were monitoring Channel 14 as the Washington state ferry, M/V Hyak, departed Pier 52 for Bremerton. Shortly after departure, the ferry hailed the captain of M/V Fortune Daisy, a 40,000 T bulk carrier that was passing across the ferry lanes to a berth at Pier 86, the Port of Seattle grain terminal, and asked the captain to switch to Channel 13, the frequency designated by the FCC for bridge-to-bridge communications.

The ferry captain confirmed the Fortune Daisy's course and suggested that the vessels pass starboard-to-starboard, or green-to-green. The Fortune Daisy's captain acknowledged the Hyak and agreed.

This type of communication between vessels happens constantly on Elliott Bay and serves to remind us of the care exercised by captains of large vessels transiting these waters.

In the above photo, the vessels can be seen in the distance, passing as agreed (starboard-to-starboard). The vessel in the foreground is M/V Goodtime II, a tour boat operated by Argosy Cruises.

Elliott Bay Open-Water Disposal Site

Under Washington law, the disposal of dredged materials from rivers, harbors, and shipping lanes in Puget Sound is managed and monitored by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the US Environmental Projection Agency, and the Washington Department of Ecology. The DNR monitoring program is funded solely by disposal fees paid by dredging operators who use the open water disposal sites.

Today, we observed the Star Marine tug, Redwood City, escorting a bottom-dump hopper barge (or scow) depositing a load of dredged materials at the Elliott Bay disposal site. These scows are fitted with bottom opening doors and are designed specifically to deliver bulk material to open-water disposal sites. In the sequence shown below, the scow appears to break along its center-line as the materials are released at the Elliott Bay site.

Orca Blue Visits Bell Harbor Marina

The weather in Seattle has been beautiful for the past couple of days -- so beautiful, in fact, that a good friend and I ventured out on Tuesday for a round of golf at Washington National GC in Auburn. The temperature at tee-off was a brisk 38 degrees, but the course was reasonably dry and in very good shape for this time of year. Our goal is to play at least once each month during the off-season, and so far, we've been able to play in each of November, December and January. With lowland snow in the forecast for the Seattle area early next week, we may not get another chance this month.

A beautiful Northwest Trawler 45 entered Bell Harbor Marina today. According to, this Northwest 45, the Orca Blue, was delivered in 2008 and is owned by Larry and Linda Hansen of Sammamish, WA. The Orca Blue is powered by a single John Deere PowerTech marine diesel engine. See

There's a well-written, detailed account of Orca Blue's 2-1/2 month cruise to Glacier Bay, Alaska in 2009 in a blog post by Peter Whiting, the co-developer of the Northwest Trawlers.