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Friday, March 30, 2012

Ceramic Arts @ Elliott Bay, Take II

The NCECA exhibit, "Weather or Not," that was the subject of our March 25 post has now been exposed to the elements for five full days. Today, the "elements" included 40-knot winds and heavy rain showers. Elliott Bay weather earlier in the week was a challenge as well. Today, we walked over to Pier 62/63 to see how the various works stood up to the elements.

The first thing we noticed is that the bright yellow WaterfrontSeattle chairs placed on the pier for the exhibit were strewn everywhere. Someone was nice enough to set them upright early this morning. By this afternoon, none were standing.

Moreover, the carefully assembled Tinker Toy-like structure pictured last Sunday . . .

 . . . now looked like this.

We hope the designer doesn't have a role in structural engineering for the SR520 bridge replacement across Lake Washington.

The Seattle Viaduct model fared somewhat better.  Here's before . . .

And here's after . . .

The project superintendent seems unaffected by the elements.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What's Wrong with this Picture?

Normally, commercial vessels approaching the Port of Seattle dwarf the tugs that assist them in docking.

So you can imagine our surprise when, earlier today, we saw the 120-foot Crowley tug Protector moving into position to assist MS Sea Bird, a relatively small, 309-foot cargo ship owned and operated by Denmark-based J. Poulsen Shipping A/S. The similarity in size of the two vessels was striking in comparison with what we normally see on Elliott Bay. 

With its two hydraulic cranes mounted port side, MS Sea Bird seems well-suited to shipment of cargoes that must be hoisted on board without dockside assistance. As an example, see this photo of Sea Bird transporting two medium-size patrol vessels on the River Weser in Germany in 2010.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ceramic Arts @ Elliott Bay

This blog has a very specific focus – what we see and hear on Elliott Bay. Most of the time, we write about things that float. But every once in a while, we observe something on the periphery of Elliott Bay that we think merits attention. Today is one of those days.

There’s a unique exhibit currently taking shape at Pier 62/63 (which, after all, sits atop Elliott Bay, if not in Elliott Bay). The exhibit is being mounted in conjunction with the 46th annual conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), which will be held March 28 through 31 here in Seattle. NCECA is a non-profit educational organization founded in 1966 to promote interest in the ceramic arts. The conference theme is “On the Edge,” a reference to Seattle’s location on the edge of both the country and the Pacific Rim. More than 190 exhibits, including the exhibit at Pier 62/63, are being presented to coincide with the conference.

The exhibit at Pier 62/63 is titled “Weather or Not” and consists of collaborative temporary installations and works using clay in a way that interacts with the weather. In the words of the exhibit curator, “Daily climate and weather in Seattle, on two large piers in downtown Seattle, on the EDGE of the Puget Sound is dynamic and we have invited individuals and groups to create something EDGY and with a potential to withstand the weather . . . or not, and celebrate our collective adventures and fascination with clay.” NCECA 2012 Exhibition Guide, p.18.

We toured the exhibit yesterday and again today. The artists plan to watch how their works interact with the weather – rain, wind, frost, and sunlight.

Here are some examples from the exhibit.

Pilotage on Puget Sound

There’s a fascinating and informative read in today’s Seattle Times about Puget Sound pilots, the 52 men who guide commercial vessels through local waters. If you’re at all interested in learning more about the pilotage profession, I commend it to your attention. It's very well done.

Under Washington law, all non-exempt vessels are required to employ a licensed pilot while navigating the Puget Sound and Grays Harbor pilotage districts. RCW 88.16.070. Most vessels under 200 feet in length are exempt from the pilotage requirement.

Pilotage rates are established annually by the Washington Board of Pilotage Commissioners, which was created by the legislature in 1935 to oversee the state’s pilotage program. The Board’s mission is to ensure against the loss of lives, loss of or damage to property and vessels, and to protect the marine environment by maintaining efficient and competent pilotage service on the state’s inland waters. The Board’s annual report, available at its web site, is well worth reading and gives insight into the business aspects of the pilotage operation.

Pilotage rates are based primarily on ship length overall (LOA) and tonnage, with add-on charges for certain additional services. WAC 363-116-300. Tonnage charges alone are substantial, amounting to $0.1012 per gross ton for vessels in excess of 50,000 gross tons. For example, the tonnage charge for Savannah Express, referenced in our March 23 post, would have amounted to more than $10,000, based on this tariff and the ship’s 94,483 gross tonnage as reported on the web site of its owner, Hapag-Lloyd. Presumably this tariff applies each direction, both inbound and outbound.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

An Italian-flavored St. Patrick's Day on Elliott Bay

A week ago today, it seemed that most Seattle residents under the age of 35 were celebrating St. Patrick's Day somewhere near the waterfront. Pike Place Market was crowded with revelers, and Paddy Coyne's Irish Pub on Alaskan Way was jam-packed from noon until well into the evening.

At mid-afternoon, an express cruiser entered Elliott Bay. As the sleek-looking cruiser approached, it became obvious that its passengers were taking advantage of the fine weather to celebrate St. Patty's Day on the water. It wasn't difficult to reach this conclusion -- an eye-catching boat that looked like it was capable of 30 knots or more, with lots of people (many dressed in green) on board. It had all the trappings of the layout for an article in Yachting magazine.

The cruiser entered Bell Harbor Marina, giving us a better opportunity to identify the boat -- an Italian-built Cranchi Mediterranee 50.

According to a report at, the Mediterranee 50 has a top speed of 40 mph, not 30. If you speak Italian (or just like the way it sounds), check out the catalog for the Mediterranee 50 here. It's a fun read.

Everything about the Mediterranee 50 speaks style and class.

March 23 -- almost summer-like

March 23 -- the nicest day in months in the Pacific Northwest -- began with Hapag Lloyd's Savannah Express entering Elliott Bay. The container ship, with a capacity of about 8400 TEU's, had a light load and rode so high in the water that her propeller was partially visible beneath the stern.

Late in the afternoon, we observed a very usual event -- a Washington State Ferry, the Chelan, dead in the water in the center of Elliott Bay. We later learned, via Channel 14 (Seattle Traffic), that the Chelan was conducting sea trials before heading north to Anacortes.

At the same time we sighted the Chelan, we also saw the regularly scheduled Friday evening departure of an Alaskan Marine Lines barge for Ketchikan. By contrast with the AML barge we covered in our May 12, 2011 post, there were no school buses atop this barge. However, there was still enough unusual cargo to keep us interested. See the boats, cars, trucks, and various items of heavy construction equipment in the photograph below.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The First Day of Spring?

When I was in elementary school, we were taught that the first day of Spring was March 21. But that seems to no longer be true. For an explanation of why Spring begins in North America on March 20, rather than March 21, see this interesting discussion in the Farmers' Almanac

It turns out that Spring actually began on March 20, at least this year. These photos were taken on March 21, when, according to, there were 12 hours 15 minutes of sunlight in Seattle, WA, and the sun's azimuth at sunset was already a couple of degrees north of due west. I always thought that day and night were equal in length on the first days of spring and fall, but Farmers' Almanac tells us that's not the case.

Putting the astronomical details to one side, the evening of March 21 was absolutely beautiful. Just before sunset, we had the fireboat Leschi putting on a spectacular water display off Pier 66 . . . 

 . . . as a Washington State Ferry departed Pier 52 for Eagle Harbor.

According to, the sun's azimuth at sunset was 272 degrees, just south (from our vantage point on Elliott Bay) of The Brothers, the 6,800-ft twin peaks in the Olympic Range.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Zorro v. Dirona at Bell Harbor Entrance

The entrance to Bell Harbor Marina is narrow and requires a tight turn of more than 90 degrees. Boats entering the marina must execute an approximate 120-degree turn to port, while boats exiting the marina must execute an identical turn to starboard. In tight quarters and for larger power boats, these turns are like pivots.

Late yesterday afternoon, we saw M/V Zorro, a Nordhavn 68 trawler, approaching the marina entrance just as M/V Dirona, a Nordhavn 52 moored at Bell Harbor, was making its exit. Because the tide was nearing its low for the day (+1.3 ft @ 6:11 PM, according to Ports & Passes), visibility was restricted. At high water, it's relatively easy to see boats on the other side of the marina entrance, whether one is entering or exiting; but at low water, the pier on the port side of the entrance as one enters the marina blocks the view of both oncoming and outgoing boats. As we watched the situation unfold, we speculated that neither Zorro nor Dirona was able to see the other.

So what happened next?

Dirona rounded the sharp corner just as Zorro was about to enter the narrow waterway. We don't know whether the pilots spoke with each other by VHF radio, but what we do know is that as soon as they saw each other, both boats stopped their forward progress. Zorro then reversed its engine, allowing Dirona to exit the marina. The photograph below was taken just as Zorro was giving way. Turbulence from either the engine or a thruster can be seen beneath its bow.

The vessels passed each other starboard-to-starboard.

What caused Zorro to give way, while Dirona continued outbound from the marina? One of the general rules of navigation is that a power-driven vessel must give way to any vessel restricted in its ability to maneuver. In this case, it was probably clear to the pilots of both Zorro and Dirona that Dirona had limited maneuvering room and that, accordingly, Zorro should give way. It would have been awkward for Dirona to reverse its course and back stern-first into the marina, but Zorro had plenty of room to back out into Elliott Bay and allow Dirona to exit. At least, that's how we saw it.

Channel 14, Seattle Traffic has referenced Dirona numerous times in the past. By coincidence, M/, the thoroughly entertaining blog published by its owners, James and Jennifer Hamilton, currently displays a photograph of Zorro taken immediately following the encounter at the entrance to Bell Harbor.

We haven't seen Zorro previously, but we're confident she has visited Elliott Bay in the past. There is a lengthy article about Zorro in the 2010 issue of Circumnavigator, the passagemaking magazine sponsored by Nordhavn, that includes a photograph of Zorro along the Seattle waterfront.

Today, Zorro is tied up at the end of C dock at Bell Harbor Marina. In the background, HMCS Regina (FFH 334), a Halifax-class frigate of the Royal Canadian Navy visiting Elliott Bay for the weekend, is tied up at Pier 66.