On Saturday Rick Anderson took to The Daily Weekly to remember the past of the Helena Star, the abandoned ship that sank in Tacoma last week, taking its very weedy history with it.
As Anderson's post noted:
No one seems to know much about the ship that sank Friday in Tacoma. It's described by the AP and other media as just another "abandoned ship" that now lies half-submerged in Hylebos Waterway. But old-time pot smokers surely recognized the ship's name right off: The Helena Star was carrying a record-setting 37 tons of marijuana when the Coast Guard seized the old Dutch freighter off the Washington coast in 1978. The haul, valued then at roughly $75 million, remains the region's (and one of the nation's) largest dope busts ever.
The ship's crew and conspirators - ten altogether - were indicted and convicted - two of them after fleeing to Bolivia. A key player, champion freestyle skier Mike Lund of Sequim, fled and was free for 23 years before being caught in 2001 (his fingerprints were traced back through a child-support case brought against him under his new identity, a father of two named Steven McCain). Then 65, he pleaded guilty in exchange for a three-year sentence.
The impounded ship, built in the Netherlands in 1947, was docked for years at Salmon Bay in Seattle, next to the Ballard Bridge, then later sold. But it became an unwanted derelict. In October, a KOMO TV report on abandoned ships cited the Star as one of 226 abandoned vessels that state officials were dealing with.
Not surprisingly, more than a few Daily Weekly readers appreciated Anderson's history lesson.
As commenter KSea notes:
Thanks for digging this up. Back in 1978, I worked in a building next to the Coast Guard at Pier 36. When they brought in the Helena Star, several of my co-workers and I went outside to boo. What a waste!